Knapp Medical Center ER Doctors' contracts in jeopardy

Emergency Room Director and former Chief of Staff at Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco, Dr. Heriberto Alanis, is just one of the 13 doctors that will be without a job come December. After 13 years of working for the hospital, Alanis said board members have decided not to renew his contract or any of the current emergency room doctors TM contracts.

"What (hospital administrators are) alleging is that they're going to try to make the services cheaper here, Alanis said. But what's going to end up happening, is I believe they're going to fly-in more doctors and in the end, it's going to be more costly for the hospital." About 50 medical professionals took to the streets Tuesday to protest the changes. They said relying on temporary ER doctors will compromise the patient care quality.

"It could be very detrimental to the safety of the community (and) to the medical care here, Alanis said. I TMm sure they'll try to work with them, but there's always a risk that things could go wrong when doctors are flying in - shifts can get missed (and) things of that sort."

Dr. Sandra Esquivel has been at surgeon at the hospital since 1996. She's not directly affected by the cuts, but said the medical staff is not under the right leadership and that if cuts are necessary, they should start at the top with current CEO James Summerset.

"(Records show that in) 2009 Mr. Summerset was paid over $850,000 and 2010, the total compensation was over a million dollars, Esquivel said. Yet our (Intensive Care Unit) nurses got a 75 cent an hour pay cut recently, none of the employees get bonuses (and) they don TMt get any merit raises."

Dr. Esquivel said the contract cuts was the final draw, and they want summerset gone.

Alanis agrees. "Our medical community here is completely divided - he has to go," Alanis said. Meanwhile, he and the rest of the ER doctors must figure out where they will be working come 2012.

"We're going to try to find work at other places, that's what it boils down to," Alanis said. In Response, Knapp Medical Center released the following statement: The emergency room physicians are not hospital employees.

The hospital contracts with a company to provide professional physician services for the emergency room.

The hospital is currently reviewing proposals from several companies that provide this service.

There will be no reduction in the level of physician coverage provided.