Articles Posted in Hospital Malpractice

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VA hospitals have the important role of serving United States veterans’ medical needs. As a federal government program, it’s subject to different laws, rules, and regulations than private hospitals or surgical centers. In an unfortunate news report, there are widespread allegations of medical malpractice, involving physicians from VA hospitals. The report notes that physicians who commit malpractice or fall beneath the standard of care are reassigned or asked to resign, and no report is allegedly made on their medical record.The news report revolves around one doctor in particular who allegedly drilled the wrong screws into one patient’s ankles, incorrectly severed another patient’s tendon, and performed unnecessary surgeries on veterans. Deposition testimony from the VA hospital revealed that he was considered a “dangerous surgeon” by the hospital surgery chief. However, the VA allegedly did not terminate his employment with the VA or report him to a national database or licensing board. Instead, the doctor was allowed to resign and establish a private practice in New York.

New York hospital malpractice claims against VA hospitals are treated differently from claims for malpractice against private companies. Instead, federal law governs the procedures for filing claims against the United States government. The federal tort claims act disclaims governmental immunity and sets forth the procedures for patients to recover compensation for negligent medical acts. Some of the key distinctions from non-governmental malpractice claims include a two-year statute of limitations for claims, all claims being processed through federal court, and the claimant being required to file a federal tort claims act form before any case can proceed. Sometimes there are circumstances in which there are providers who are not employees of the VA who may have also provided negligent care. In that situation, people could have concurrent state and federal actions.

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Patients are required to put a tremendous amount of trust into their physicians, who perform highly specialized procedures with the potential for tremendous risk. Unless told otherwise, most patients probably assume their surgeon is giving them their undivided attention during an operation. As recent regulatory scrutiny shows, however, the practice of double-booking surgeries occurs in hospitals across the country.The practice of double-booking works as follows. At teaching hospitals, more experienced surgeons train residents or fellows in performing surgeries. That means the attending, or more senior, surgeon can delegate the task of performing different surgeries to different trainees. In practice, the attending surgeon might perform an operation in one room while having a trainee performing a surgery on a different patient in another room.

Double-booking is not prohibited by law, but the policies of hospitals determine whether or not to allow the practice. Reports have alleged that health complications result from double-bookings. For instance, a Boston Globe investigative report noted examples of patients waiting under anesthesia while hospital staff attempted to locate surgeons who were not present. Trainees ended up performing those surgeries without oversight.

The reasons for why this practice has continued vary depending on who is presenting their case. Hospitals argue that it allows more patients to receive treatment because the surgeries are still performed with the utmost care. Critics say that the practice is about physicians bringing in more revenue because they can bill for multiple surgeries and have trainees perform a portion of them.

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