Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CA Medical Director Position Will be Tough to Fill

The California Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) Medical Director position has been vacant now for around 3 years, and despite recruitment efforts the DWC has received only one application.

New Administrative Director (AD), Rosa Moran, has her hands full with huge challenges, but one of the biggest challenges is finding qualified people to do the various jobs necessary to run the DWC.

This is particularly acute when the state, despite its independently "user funded" Workers' Compensation Revolving Fund, is on austerity budgeting that doesn't permit flexibility in staffing (i.e. hiring).

Besides cache (and that may be overstated), the DWC Medical Director position is labor intensive and requires extraordinary skill, schooling and knowledge - probably more so than most any other position in state government.

And the government is competing not only against private industry that hires its own medical directors, but against the various other career options physicians have, options that more often than not are less stressful and more lucrative.

In addition, the character of a qualified physician just won't permit that person to assume a nine to five work mentality. That person is going to be consumed with the job and likely will not feel good about doing the job unless they are working it 50 to 60 hours a week.

Navigating the various constituencies within the system while attempting to uphold the promise of expediency in workers' compensation is a highly stressful part of the Medical Director job, adding to the unattractiveness of the position.

Moran, in an interview this past August, realized the rock and hard place position she is in regarding the Medical Director position, telling former Chief Judge of the Oakland District Office Kenneth Peterson:

"Part of the problem with the Medical Director position has been the salary. We are having trouble recruiting candidates because qualified doctors are unwilling to give up lucrative practices. We are looking at the possibility of a part-time position, so a doctor could retain at least a portion of a private practice. There would have to be a way to avoid conflicts of interest, as the Medical Director could not be a QME. We may need to change the position description so we can get a good person on board."

According to, the median salary for a Medical Director in Oakland (which is where DWC headquarters is located) is nearly $250,000 per year.

The Sacramento Bee website has an interactive tool for comparing state civil service employee salaries as filed with the state Controller's office. The top five salaries are over $1.7 million, the top being $2.3 million, and three of those positions are for college coaches. The top salaries in the Department of Industrial Relations are more than 12 times less financially rewarding than the head coach at UC Berkeley!

Yes, the State of California deems college athletics more important than the health, safety and welfare of its 16 million workers.

And good luck finding a physician to take the Medical Director job at the salary available.

I wish I had an answer for Moran and the state. The Medical Director position is a critical one for the success of the California workers' compensation system, but obviously the system can function, albeit anemically, without one as it has for the last three years.

Honestly though, the Medical Director position will likely remain vacant until the Governor either removes the Executive Order that imposes budgetary restrictions on all of state government or exempts the DWC from it.

1 comment:

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