March 30, 2007

P.ssed Off Momma

Since this is a blog for my children, occasionally I will post my thoughts on different items. I write stuff like this and don't always put it out... but I'm tired and pissy and this really bothers me. This one is on an article I read in the Palm Beach Post. I will quote it here because the link is likely to disappear in a week:

Donna Casasnovas understood the consequences of a shortage of emergency room specialists months before the Palm Beach County Medical Society released the results of its study earlier this week.

She might not have known that the 14 area hospitals have struggled for years to find enough surgeons for their ERs, or that new trends were emerging in the county's crisis that would be detailed in the report.

What the Royal Palm Beach mother knows is that her four children no longer have a father. Her husband, Enrique Casasnovas, 39, had begun vomiting blood in the middle of the night Dec. 23 and was rushed to the hospital.

But on Dec. 23, Palms West Hospital didn't have a gastroenterologist - a doctor specializing in the digestive system - who could treat his internal bleeding. Neither did any other hospital in the county.

Hours later, Casasnovas was transferred via ambulance to a hospital in Broward County, where, upon arrival, he had a heart attack.

"This is a health-care delivery crisis," said Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department. "It's totally inexcusable."

The problem is not a new one, but the medical group's report sheds light on its breadth. The Palm Beach Post exposed the ER doctor shortage in 2004, when a Lake Worth woman died after being unable to find a neurosurgeon in the county willing to treat her stroke.

Still, area hospitals continue to struggle to find enough neurosurgeons, hand surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and other specialists to work in the ER.

I am horrified by what happened to this family, but I'm frustrated by it as well. Horrified because that could have been me and my family... frustrated because people just don't get what's happening and why... This is a long rant and the rest will be put in "More pawprints"

But the medical society's report predicts that the current shortage of ER specialists will worsen during the next few years, and that has local health-care officials concerned about the potential for more cases such as Casasnovas'.

For example, according to the report, Palm Beach County will have about half as many general surgeons and family physicians as it needs by 2011.

Ironically, the overall doctor shortage is not to blame for the crisis with gastroenterologists. The county actually has about twice as many gastroenterologists as it needs, according to the report. Its just that most of them don't take emergency calls.

I have seen this happening over the last few years. Again, the paper is leaving out the number of doctors sued over every little thing. People in West Palm Beach are sue happy. I know someone, a pediatrician, that was sued by a man that had already sued 40 other doctors in the area. He did not win this time, but he won a lot of them. What surprised me, is that the man doing the suing was not unusual. I was shocked.

There is more info in the article but this makes my point:

The two main reasons for that are the cost of medical malpractice insurance, which is higher than average here, and the lack of a major public hospital that provides doctors immunity from lawsuits. The first has led more county doctors to "go bare" - operate without malpractice insurance. Without coverage, doctors are less inclined to want to work in the ER because they believe that makes them more vulnerable to lawsuits.

There are good points in the comments at the end of the article. What I find is that we do not have laws to help the doctors. As has been pointed out, too many have been sued (not necessarily the ones doing bad things as I happen to know first hand) just to get money. Some doctors are greedy, but the ones I have seen in PBCounty have not been. Yet a lot of people sue if something goes wrong, geeze, doctors are human... All have been willing to work with me.

And no one wants to stand up and make the government get out of the mess, make the people figure out who is a good doctor or not, and quit suing just to earn money. Yaa it sucks that my dad died and was not diagnosed sooner. But that doesn't mean my family and I are going to sue everyone for not figuring it out. Sigh... I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it better for everyone. It's not going to happen. This is the real world, with people who make mistakes, with those who will try to take advantage of others. The question is "What is the right thing to do?" Just getting money is not the right thing. In fact, I wish when they sued doctors it could only be to take away their license. Which means they had to do something that would require that. You would get NO money. The only satisfaction would be taking away this man or woman's livelihood. The question is "Would that be the right thing to do in this case?" I think a lot of the unnecessary lawsuits would stop. Possibly the doctors would come back and work in ER.

Posted by vw bug at March 30, 2007 08:30 AM | TrackBack

a two week per year open season on tort lawyers and a $100 bounty on their ears might help..hell, it helped clean out the wolves from the great plains..and tort lawyers are worse than wolves..more like sharks who will hone in wherever they can smell blood and the medical business has a lot of blood...

Posted by: GUYK at March 30, 2007 12:20 PM

Times have certainly changed. In 1934, my grandmother had to have an emergency c-section. The doctor that performed the surgery accidentally cut my mother's cheek while doing the c-section. He didn't get sued; he was thanked for saving both of them. You would never see that today.

Posted by: sticks at March 30, 2007 04:55 PM

I wouldn't want to take away the ability of the court to award damages in true cases of malpractice but I do think that the doctors need protection from stupid suits. A mistake isn't malpractice, neither is the fact that doctors aren't gods who unerringly know what is wrong and how to cure it.

I put most of the blame on lawyers and greedy clients but some also goes to medical boards which have protected doctors who should have had their license to practice revoked. Although some blame should go to stupid juries who award huge amounts, I think that most of the cases are filed in the hopes that the doctor's insurance will settle before it ever reaches court.

I also wonder if the patients who have problems getting a specialist in the emergency room have primary care physicians. My thoughts are that if they do, he or she would be notified that the patient is going to the ER and would be more likely to be able to get a specialist in there. Too many people use the ER as a health clinic for all their health problems and by not having a primary care physician, have given up an advocate when there is a true emergency.

Perhaps if the lawyers and their clients had to pay doctors (time spent and damage to their reputations) when they lose the suits there would be fewer brought over mistakes or "we just don't like the results".

Posted by: marybeth at March 31, 2007 10:18 AM

Yeah, this is a huge problem affecting our nation as a whole and it's not just the ER's that are feeling it either. It's the whole medical industry feeling it. I just put up my own little rant on this issue and a link to this. Sorry, I wasn't able use the trackback though. It kept giving me an error:(

Posted by: maranda rites at March 31, 2007 06:32 PM