Shock Trauma director refuses to step down

February 25, 1993|By Jonathan Bor and Michael Hill | Jonathan Bor and Michael Hill,Staff Writers Staff writers Douglas Birch and Michael Ollove contributed to this article.

Dr. Kimball I. Maull refused to quit as director of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday, saying his job is on the line because he criticized care at the center and opposes legislation that he claims would harm it.

"I'm not going to resign, just so you'll know," said Dr. Maull, who took over as the state's trauma chief last February.

Dr. Maull has been asked by officials of the University of Maryland Medical System, which runs both Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland Medical Center, to resign or face firing.

In his job, Dr. Maull directs the statewide emergency medical network and the Shock Trauma Center, which receives the most critically injured patients from across the state. He reports to two bosses: the University of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical System.

A bill, supported by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, would dramatically reshape the way emergency medical care is supervised and would strip Dr. Maull's post of much of its power. Mr. Schaefer said he supports the move to oust Dr. Maull, whose opposition to the bill has angered his superiors and driven them to remove him.

"He had a strong personality and the best intentions, but all that matters to me is that Shock Trauma regain the status it had under Dr. Cowley," Mr. Schaefer said. Dr. R Adams Cowley was the founder and guiding spirit of Shock Trauma, directing it for more than two decades.

The executive committee of the board of directors of the University of Maryland Medical System discussed Dr. Maull's fate at a meeting yesterday evening.

"We're firing a guy who didn't work out," Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president of the University of Maryland Medical System, told a reporter shortly before the meeting.

Two board members, who refused to be identified, said the panel discussed what it considered Dr. Maull's shortcomings. They said they feared that his autocratic style threatened to drive talented doctors away.

Dr. Rapoport presented his case against Dr. Maull and no one at the board meeting took up a defense of him, said a member. The board approved a letter to the University of Maryland's Board of Regents, which alone has the power to fire him.

The members would not disclose the contents of the letter.

Medical system officials said privately that they hoped Dr. Maull would announce his resignation at a meeting with his staff scheduled for 10 a.m. today.

Reports circulated widely at Shock Trauma that the leadership planned to name John W. Ashworth III, vice president for strategic planning of the medical system, as Shock Trauma's interim director.

Dr. Maull said he hopes the regents give him a chance to plead his case.

Then, he said, if "there is agreement among the people I report to that I should leave, then I don't have any choice."

The regents, meanwhile, remained on the sidelines yesterday. "There is no meeting scheduled at this point," said Anne J. Moultrie, a spokeswoman for the regents.

Asked whether the regents talked about firing Dr. Maull, she said: "As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss personnel matters."

Dr. Maull, 50, is the former chairman of the department of surgery of the University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville. He receives a $233,100 salary from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Maull was hired to reform Shock Trauma but his style quickly offended the staff as well as his bosses in the medical system. Last summer, he fired three veteran doctors who disagreed with his policies. The university leadership backed Dr. Maull, but board members now privately say they were unhappy with the way Dr. Maull handled the dismissals. For example, they felt it was unnecessary for Dr. Maull to give the doctors three days to collect their belongings and get out of the hospital. He later had the locks on their doors changed.

Board members were further irritated when shortly after, Dr. Maull began to defend his policies by insisting that Shock Trauma had become a second-rate facility.

He commissioned a study, later obtained by The Sun, that said Shock Trauma ranked near the bottom of about 70 trauma centers nationwide in measures of patient survival.

In a private letter to university officials, Dr. Maull said the survey showed the center's leadership had "intentionally misled" the public for years by claiming Shock Trauma was one of the nation's premier trauma hospitals.

But doctors and medical system officials bristled at his remarks, saying the study was statistically flawed and should have remained private.

"That was a disservice to the doctors and nurses who were busting their tails everyday," said Frank Kelly, a member of the University of Maryland Medical Systems board.

Mr. Kelly, a former state senator, said that Dr. Maull's actions were demoralizing the staff, raising the prospects that talented doctors and nurses would leave, a fear that seemed to be borne out last week when six orthopedic surgeons announced their intentions to quit.

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