Articles Posted in Government Reports

Levin Perconti - Elderly Man Against the World

Understanding How Illinois Law Applies in FTCA Malpractice Suits

Medical malpractice can happen to a patient at any stage – during diagnosis, treatment, procedures and surgery, recovery, or even at a simple office visit. It can also occur while being a patient at any medical facility, including a government-run health system such as a Veterans Affairs hospital. But medical malpractice claims against the U.S. Government (and its agents) is complex and involves The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). FTCA is a federal statute that provides a broad waiver of sovereign immunity, effectively allowing people the opportunity to pursue a personal injury (or tort) claim, and for plaintiffs to sue the United States for things such as negligence committed by individuals employed by the government.

To file a federal tort claim and seek compensation in Illinois, you must demonstrate these three things:

understaffed hospital

Westlake Hospital Stays Open for Now, Community Leaders Say There Are Not Enough Staff to Care for Patients 

By court order, Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park is to stay open and keep patient safety a top concern. Previously, a Cook County Circuit Court judge granted Melrose Park a temporary restraining order, prohibiting Pipeline Health (owners of Westlake) from further minimizing services or staffing after they had announced the hospital would no longer be admitting new patients and transferring others.

But local lawmaker Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch of Westchester says that despite the newest court order to stay open and treat patients, Pipeline Health is still “turning employees and staff away.”

We have often reported on the legal challenges faced by military service members (and sometimes their family) when trying to hold negligent doctors accountability for committing medical errors. Past rulings from the court have severely limited the rights military personnel to recover following these lapses. The general concern in the past was that allowing such suits for active military personnel might open up a can of worms for medical treatment conducting in the heat of battle. Obviously there is a higher likelihood of some adverse outcome if medical treatment is provided on a battlefield as opposed to a traditional hospital. However, that general principle has been extended such that military doctors are virtually immune from full accountability for their errors, even when making mistakes in the comfort of military hospitals far from anything that could be called a battlefield.

A few recent cases have been brought hoping to challenge past precedent and open the door for those severely hurt (or killed) as a result of poor care by military doctors. Yet most of those challenges have gone nowhere.

In a relatively new decision, however, a glimmer of hope was provided to those hoping to alter past precedents. In an opinion released earlier this week, Levin v. United States, the high court ruled that sovereign immunity principles did not apply to bar a medical malpractice suit by a military veteran who suffered harm as a result of a botch cataract surgery.

The Huffington Post is reporting that a Spanish-speaking patient had the wrong kidney removed during surgery after a clear communication error. This showcases that the medical community has an obvious problem when it comes to communicating with patients who are not fluent in English. There is a need for interpreters not only for major surgery, but all medical communication. Statistics have shown that language is one of the major factors in cases of misdiagnosis and can lead to delays in service. These studies show that patients who have limited English proficiency are almost twice as likely to suffer medical error in U.S. hospitals. This can lead to temporary harm or even death.

These studies prove that the medical system is failing when it comes to addressing the needs of those with limited English skills. Studies show that those individuals with limited English are at a much greater risk for medical error than those who are native to English. Census data shows that over 47 million speak a language that is not English at home. Of that 47 million people, 23 million are considered to be limited English proficient (LEP). There are more than 176 different languages and dialects are spoken across the country. It appears that a qualified medical interpreter is the bridge to saving the lives of LEP patients. Take a look at the medical malpractice study to learn more about these errors.

While interpreters have become commonplace in government entities, courtrooms and classrooms, it is remarkable that hospitals do not have a requirement for translators. In large cities like Chicago, there need to be interpreters in all major hospitals. This would help decrease the kinds of medical error as the study has shown. The independent National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters has launched a program to make certain that there are not only medical interpreters in hospitals, but that they are well versed in medical terminology. If you have been a victim of a medical error caused by a language barrier that led to serious injury, please consult a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.

The Commercial News is reporting that Illiana Healthcare, a Danville, Illinois Veterans Affairs healthcare system, has changed its level of impatient surgeries it will offer in order to reduce the risk of medical errors and to protect patient safety. Instead of performing intermediate procedures, such as colon resections or joint replacements, the hospital will only perform standard procedures, such as foot surgery or ear, nose and throat surgery. If a veteran has to receive an intermediate surgery, he or she must be transferred to the VA hospital in Indianapolis or another facility. This comes after the VA announced a new initiative to designate which veteran’s hospitals will perform certain levels of surgeries. The goal is to perform each surgery under the safest possible conditions at facilities that have the resources to support them. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti commend the VA for its efforts to decrease medical error. Learn more about the changes to the Illinois hospital system by clicking on the link.

Despite the efforts to decrease medical errors in VA hospitals, medical malpractice still occurs. The Federal Tort Claims Act governs medical malpractice lawsuits against veteran’s hospitals. Before your Chicago medical malpractice attorney can sue, he or she must make an administrative claim against the hospital for the full damages. Once that administrative claim is filed, the VA only has six months to review and investigate it. Then they are given the choice to accept and pay, settle the claim for less, or reject the medical malpractice claim. The statute of limitations under the FTCA is a standard two years after discovering your medical injury; however you have to factor in the six month timeframe for administrative claims when filing. To learn more about these FTCA claims, please check out this link.

A new report is showing that state medical boards are not living up to their obligations to protect patients from those doctors who are practicing substandard medicine. Although the rate in which states took disciplinary action against doctors rose slightly in 2009, this is still 18 percent lower than the highest rate which occurred 5 years ago. The Public Citizen Press Room is reporting that if the rate stayed constant at the peak rate, there would have been an additional 653 serious disciplinary actions taken against U.S. physicians.

The director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group stated that there is mounting evidence showing that medical boards are under-disciplining physicians who commit medical error. He believes that most states are not living up to their obligations to the general population to protect those patients from doctors who are not practicing safe medicine. It is imperative that serious attention be given to improving how state medical boards hold physicians accountable. To ensure this, legislative action must but pressure on the medical boards. There needs to be legislative oversight of medical boards in order to decrease the amount of medical errors. While Illinois does not land in the states with the worst records of disciplining physicians, it also does not land in the best. They have worked towards improving the amount of disciplinary actions taken. Illinois must make sure that their medical boards are closely watching all medical errors committed by physicians in order to protect patients. To learn more about the medical malpractice study, please click the link.

The Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants is reporting that a report has been gathered to assess whether physician assistant and nurse practitioner utilization increases liability. This study comprises of 17 years of data that was used to compare and contrast malpractice incidence, payment amount and other measurers of liability among doctors, Pas and advance practice nurses.

Most of this study concerns liability in comparison to salary. There was a significant differences were found in liability reports among doctors, PAs and APNs. While physicians made malpractice payments double that of PAs, their payments were less than that of APNs. No matter the level of medical malpractice payment, missed diagnosis was the leading reson for the malpractice report. It was also reported that female providers incurred higher payments than males. A trend analysis found in the study shows that the rate of malpractice payments for physicians, Pas and APNs has been steady and consistent with the growth of the number of providers.

The ending conclusion of the study is that the incorporation of Pas and APNs into American society has been a safe and beneficial undertaking when compared with that of doctors. It is obvious that the more employees that are in a hospital, the less medical errors are made. The chances of paying a medical malpractice award was 1 in 62 physicians and yet 1 in 563 for PAs. This leads to a medical malpractice risk for PAs to less than 9.1 times the risk for physicians. To learn more about this medical malpractice study, please click the link.

Did you know that preventable medical errors are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States? The Institute of Medicine has discovered that as many as 98,000 people die every year in the United States from medical negligence. Medical error claims more lives than diabetes and influenza. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has found that 180,000 people are injured every year by these preventable medical errors. It’s obvious that the most direct way to decrease the amount of medical malpractice claims is to focus on reducing the incidence of medical malpractice. By enacting certain safety measures, the medical community could decrease many deaths every year. For example, surgical checklists would greatly reduce the amount of medical deaths. Also, medical personnel should always be required to wash their hands in order to decrease the amount of staff infections. If these little measures are implemented, hospitals could greatly decrease the 98,000 people who wrongfully die every year. If that number decreases, the number of medical malpractice claims would also decrease.

While many Republicans claim that tort reform is the way to decrease medical malpractice cases, it is time to focus on the true problem. Instead we should all be focusing on how we can reduce the number of medical negligent deaths. In fact, while the number of medical negligent deaths has remained steady, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits has decreased. If you have been a victim of medical negligence, consult a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer. To read more about Illinois medical malpractice, please check out the Illinois’ white paper.

The Chicago Tribune is publishing that patients are in fact dying in hospitals with great reputations more than those with poor ones. Immediately, medical centers around the state are challenging the information by stating that it did not accurately reflect the different patients that each hospital treats. While the hospitals are stating that these statistics are born on false characteristics, the Illinois Department of Health states that the methodology was developed by significant testing and evaluation.

This would be the first time that Illinois has published mortality data for hospitals. The numbers include many alarming facts. For example, death rates for those patients who have congestive heart failure are higher at the U. of C. Medical hospitals. The average Illinois hospitalization rate for those with congestive heart failure is 3.88 percent while U of C stands at 4.86 percent. Additionally the U of C reported more deaths among patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. The statewide average of deaths was 2.87 percent while U of C boasted a 4.94 percent.

The U of C. was not the only facility with poor statistics. The University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center also boasted higher number of medical deaths. For example, stroke patients death rates at this hospital averaged at 10.67 percent compared to an average of 9.10 percent. If you have a loved one that has fallen victim to medical error at one of these hospitals, please consult a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. To read more about the new medical malpractice report, please click the link.

Two decades ago, Congress created a national database to stop dangerous or incompetent caregivers from crossing state lines. The database allowed hospitals to check for disciplinary actions taken anywhere in the country against nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and other licensed health professionals. Twenty-two years later the federal government is finally letting hospitals use it. However, the database is missing serious disciplinary actions against possibly thousands of health providers. One such health care provider had her license pulled after she injected a patient with painkillers in a drugstore parking lot. However, she is not listed on the database.

The head of the Health Resources and Services Administration has acknowledged that records were missing. They sent a letter to the nation’s governors asking for their immediate help fixing gaps in the database calling it a matter of public safety. In 1999, medical malpractice legislation made it mandatory for state boards to file a report on all other health professionals whose licenses were revoked or restricted. Reporters found at least nine states that appear to have submitted incomplete records on registered nurses. This includes one case in which a nurse had put a knife to a co-worker’s throat. A recent medical malpractice article documented the failure of this database.

The Chicago Tribune has found that Illinois regulators had revoked the license of an EMT after she failed to provide proper care to patients in need, yet she was still not on the federal database. Illinois is one of the 20 states that have failed to adequately report disciplinary actions. These databases will help decrease medical error. They must be properly updated in order to protect Illinois patients.

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