Ouster of Shock Trauma head is imminent Announcement of departure is reportedly set for tomorrow

February 24, 1993|By Jonathan Bor and Douglas Birch | Jonathan Bor and Douglas Birch,Staff Writers

Dr. Kimball I. Maull, the Tennessee surgeon who began shaking up the Maryland Shock Trauma Center soon after he was named director last year, is being told by his bosses at the University of Maryland Medical System to resign or be fired, according to individuals close to both sides.

The individuals, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said an announcement of Dr. Maull's ouster was tentatively scheduled for tomorrow.

"The decision has been made by the people who are important that Maull has got to go," said one.

"I've been informed that there will be a change at the Shock Trauma Center and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, in terms of the director, and that the details will be outlined in the next few days," said Dr. James D'Orta, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Emergency Medical Services.

Dr. D'Orta said he doesn't know the circumstances of Dr. Maull's departure. He was told by officials at the University of Maryland Medical System, the private corporation that runs Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland Medical Center, that they soon expect to replace Dr. Maull.

He receives a university salary of $233,000.

Dr. Maull, reached in New York where he was attending a medical conference, declined to comment.

After an afternoon meeting, medical system officials said they also would have no comment.

Joan Schnipper, a spokeswoman for Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, chief executive of the medical system, said yesterday evening that only the University of Maryland Board of Regents has the power to dismiss Dr. Maull. She referred questions to the board.

A spokeswoman for the regents said she had not heard about any efforts to oust Dr. Maull.

Shock Trauma receives the most critically injured patients from across the state, many of them accident victims flown there by helicopter.

Pressure on Dr. Maull to resign comes less than a week after several orthopedic surgeons at Shock Trauma, dissatisfied with his leadership, said they had secured new jobs or were seeking other places to work.

But yesterday, one of the doctors said she would reconsider her plans to leave if Dr. Maull were terminated. She guessed other surgeons would do likewise.

"Yes, I would at least be willing to speak with whomever is in charge to renegotiate how our division is run and what the working conditions would be like," said Dr. Carol E. Copeland, who said last week that she was job hunting.

"The working conditions changed under his leadership and had caused us to start looking to other places."

With his hard-nosed and often abrasive leadership, Dr. Maull sparked controversy soon after he took the reins of Shock Trauma last February. One thing that rankled the orthopedists, said Dr. Copeland, was Dr. Maull's release last October of an independent survey that gave Shock Trauma a low ranking among trauma centers on measures of patient survival.

The survey, done by Tri-Analytics, a private research company in Bel Air, compared about 70 trauma centers across the country. Dr. Maull said the survey demonstrated that the public had been "intentionally misled" over the years into believing that Shock Trauma was one of the premier centers of its kind.

But several doctors said the report was statistically flawed and probably meaningless. Top medical center officials were incensed that Dr. Maull spoke publicly about its contents, one insider said.

"On closer analysis, a lot of questions have been raised about the data, and a lot of people here on staff felt those questions should have been raised and investigated" before the data were released, Dr. Copeland said.

A supporter of Dr. Maull said the last straw was his refusal to back pending legislation that would reduce Shock Trauma's power by loosening its ties with the statewide emergency medical system.

In effect, the legislation would take away some of Shock Trauma's influence over where patients are sent. It would also wrest control of the emergency medical system from the University of Maryland and put it under a new commission that reports directly to the governor.

The effort to force Dr. Maull out is complicated by the current chain of command at Shock Trauma. Dr. Maull is director of the independent Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, which runs the $35 million Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and emergency care statewide.

In that job, he reports both to leaders of the university medical system and to the University of Maryland's Board of Regents.

Dr. Maull's support appears to have eroded over the past several months.

"I backed this man as long as I could," said Francis X. Kelly, a former state senator who holds seats on the medical system board and on the governor's emergency medical commission. "But in the last couple of months I've come to the conclusion he can't handle the job. I think he would be well-served if he stepped down. We would be well-served."

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