Three months in a high-volume tertiary orthopaedic trauma unit: What is a registrar worth?

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S Afr Med J. 2021 Apr 30;111(5):482-486. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i5.14844.


BACKGROUND: South Africa has a high burden of traumatic injuries that is predominantly managed in the public healthcare system, despite the relative disparity in human resources between the public and private sectors. Because of budget and theatre time constraints, the trauma waiting list often exceeds 50 – 60 patients who need urgent and emergent surgery in high-volume orthopaedic trauma centres. This situation is exacerbated by other surgical disciplines using orthopaedic theatre time for life-threatening injuries because of lack of own theatre availability. One of the proposed solutions to this problem is outsourcing of some of the cases to private medical facilities.

OBJECTIVES: To establish the volume of work done by an orthopaedic registrar during a 3-month trauma rotation, and to calculate the implant and theatre costs, as well as compare the salary of a registrar with the theoretical private surgeon fees for procedures performed by the registrar in the 3-month period.

METHODS: In a retrospective study, the surgical logbook of a single registrar during a 3-month rotation, from 14 January to 14 April 2019, was reviewed. Surgeon fees were calculated for these procedures, according to current medical aid rates, without additional modifier codes being added.

RESULTS: During the 3-month study period, a total of 157 surgical procedures was performed, ranging from total hip arthroplasty to debridement of septic hands. Surgeon fees amounted to ZAR186 565.10 per month ‒ double the gross salary of a registrar. Total implant costs amounted to ZAR1 272 667. Theatre costs were ZAR1 301 976 for the 3-month period.

CONCLUSIONS: Although this analysis was conducted over a short period, it highlights the significant amount of trauma work done by a single individual at a high-volume tertiary orthopaedic trauma unit. With increasing budget constraints, pressure on theatre time and a growing population, cost-effective expansion of resources is needed. From this study, it appears that increasing capacity in the state sector could be cheaper than private outsourcing, although a more in-depth analysis needs to be conducted.

PMID:34852892 | DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i5.14844