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ACGME?s Proposed Limits on Resident Physician Work Hours Are Inadequate, Coalition Says

Feb. 11, 2002

ACGME?s Proposed Limits on Resident Physician Work Hours Are Inadequate, Coalition Says

WASHINGTON, D.C.   New standards being proposed today for governing the work hours of resident physicians are woefully inadequate to address serious patient and physician safety concerns, according to a coalition of medical students, resident physicians and consumer advocates.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Working Group on Resident Duty Hours and Learning Environment is set to announce new proposed guidelines in a report published today. The proposal would allow resident physicians to work 36-hour “on-call” shifts every other night and put in a 125-hour workweek once a month, which would leave only 43 hours in that week for personal time. The ACGME is the body responsible for accrediting residency programs.

The coalition, headed by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU 1957 and Public Citizen, contends that the Working Group?s report is in part a response to a petition the coalition filed in April 2001 with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate resident work hours and to Rep. John Conyers? (D-Mich.) Patient and Physician Safety and Protection Act of 2001 (HR 3236), filed in November 2001.

Both the petition and the legislation would limit resident physicians to an 80-hour workweek and provide for active enforcement mechanisms including monetary fines.

“In contrast, the ACGME?s proposed guidelines fail to incorporate any viable mechanism for enforcing work hours limits,” said Amer Ardati, a medical student working with Public Citizen.

Added Dr. Ruth Potee, national president of CIR/SEIU and a third-year family practice resident at Boston Medical Center, “The consequences of working excessive hours are serious, both to our patients and to ourselves. Auto accidents, complications of pregnancy, depression ? all disproportionately impact resident physicians working long hours.” CIR/SEIU represents 11,000 resident physicians in the United States.

“We are disappointed that the ACGME continues to resist the involvement of the federal government,” said Jaya Agrawal, president of AMSA and a fourth-year medical student at Brown Medical School. “Teaching hospitals annually receive $8 billion of taxpayers? money for graduate medical education. Public dollars should mean public accountability.” AMSA represents 30,000 medical students.

Added Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen?s Health Research Group, “The ACGME proposal is nothing more than a sham designed to prevent real reform.”

Click here to view?a table comparing the resident work hour reform proposals.

Click here to view the coalition’s original petition.