The governing board of Tampa General Hospital expressed fear Thursday that the long-smoldering squabble between the University of South Florida (USF) and a group of orthopedists might jeopardize trauma care at the hospital. In a unanimous resolution, members of the Hillsborough County Hospital Authority conveyed "with urgency" the recommendation to both factions to seek an end to the dispute through the use of an impartial mediator.
Complaining of "chaos" and "poor morale" among resident orthopedists at the hospital, authority member Frank Fleischer also called for revision to give the hospital power to keep such quarrels from disrupting medical care.
Meanwhile, because of widely publicized problems, an accrediting agency that could close the program has moved up its scheduled review of the USF orthopedics residency program, officials said Thursday.
The Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education now plans to visit USF next month or in April, said Steven Nestler, the committee's secretary. At its June meeting, the committee will review the inspector's findings and decide whether to renew the program's accreditation, put the program on probation or close the program, Nestler said.
Tampa General is one of the state's six teaching hospitals and the only public hospital in Hillsborough County. Fifteen USF resident orthopedists administer much of the care to indigents at its Regional Trauma Center, where residents involved in serious accidents in west-central Florida often are treated.
Earlier this month, the 15 residents filed a grievance against Dr. Robert J. Schultz, 59, who came to Tampa from New York in June to assume the chairmanship of the USF Orthopedics Department. The residents asked not to have to practice with Schultz, fearing they could be sued for malpractice.
Schultz was hired to replace Dr. Philip Spiegel, who was removed as department chairman in October 1988. That prompted 13 department orthopedists to resign in protest in January 1989 and go into private practice by forming the Florida Orthopedic Institute (FOI). The 13 orthopedists continued to teach residents while Spiegel maneuvered in court to try to win back his job.
Discord between the USF-Schultz group and the FOI-Spiegel group has festered. Last Friday, the orthopedists sued the university for $5-million, claiming USF violated its affiliation agreement with FOI.
Fleischer suggested to the authority that USF President Francis Borkowski or the Florida Board or Regents might intervene to end the dispute. Other authority members said the critical need was to protect the hospital's stake in the affiliation with the university.
"Without this university, this hospital will not be this hospital," said Dr. Jay Wolfson, an authority member.
_ Staff writer Marlene Sokol contributed to this story.