U.S. doctors on coronavirus frontline seek protection from malpractice suits

UNTV News   •   April 3, 2020   •   327

U.S. medical professionals on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic are lobbying policymakers for protection from potential malpractice lawsuits as hospitals triage care and physicians take on roles outside their specialties.

State chapters of the powerful American Medical Association and other groups representing healthcare providers have been pressing governors for legal cover for decisions made in crisis-stricken emergency rooms.

More than half a dozen emergency room doctors and nurses told Reuters they are concerned about liability as they anticipate rationing care or performing unfamiliar jobs due to staff and equipment shortages caused by the outbreak.

Governors in New York, New Jersey and Michigan have responded with orders that raised the standard for injuries or deaths while working in support of the state’s response to COVID-19 from negligence to gross negligence, or an egregious deviation from standard care.

Physicians, who have long blamed malpractice lawsuits for driving up healthcare costs, hope other states will follow.

“We need protection that is temporary,” said Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston.

“We are in a situation where we have to be able to save the most number of lives, and we just can’t be in a situation where people who don’t have to make those decisions are sitting there, sitting back in their chairs and saying, ‘let me see if I can shake that tree for money’.”

On Monday (March 30), U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, introduced legislation that would protect U.S. doctors who practice outside their area of specialty or who use a modified medical device. Doctors would also be protected for providing treatment outside standard healthcare facilities.

Plaintiffs firms that specialize in malpractice are keeping an eye on how healthcare providers are responding to the crisis.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday (March 31) that the outbreak could kill up to 240,000 in the United States and said that the impact would intensify in the coming weeks, potentially overwhelming hospitals.

Doctors and nurses said they worried about the lack of equipment and obligations to resuscitate patients without the ventilators needed to do it.

In an example of how healthcare professionals could be exposed to malpractice lawsuits, several doctors said the increasing demand for hospital beds meant they weren’t able to be as cautious as they normally might be with non-coronavirus patients.

Doctors routinely order extensive testing and overnight observation for patients with mild heart conditions or strokes, even if their symptoms have disappeared once they get to the hospital, for example. Now, they are sending these individuals home to make room for COVID-19 patients.

Malpractice lawsuits can be very costly. A Baltimore jury last year awarded $229 million for brain damage suffered by a girl born at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, for example.

Insurance premiums can top $100,000 a year for some specialists in states without caps on damages.

An image was posted on Twitter last week of a malpractice law firm’s website which featured a blog post titled “What you should know about medical negligence during the COVID-19 crisis.”

“It truly disgusts me to see what badness comes out during a crisis like this,” wrote Eugene Yang, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington who tweeted the post, which drew dozens of comments, many from healthcare professionals, sharing his rage.

The website of the law firm, Mannarino & Brasfield, has been taken offline and a recorded message on the firm’s answering system said the post was published by an outside contractor. The firm’s phone message apologized and said the post did not reflect the firm’s values.

Joe Belluck, a New York lawyer who brings medical malpractice cases, said he’s concerned the coronavirus crisis could be used to enact a wish list of changes sought by doctors, hospitals and the medical industry to curb unrelated lawsuits.

He acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances medical personnel and hospitals were in but urged caution.

“When they are faced with this type of crisis, we have to be careful that what is enacted or done by executive order is narrowly tailored to the emergency circumstances that we’re in. And I think if that’s done the right way, it will be something that, you know, everybody involved in the legal system can live with.”

Lawyers who represent patients said the law already protects medical professionals. To make their case, patients must show a medical provider negligently deviated from the reasonable standard of care for particular circumstances. (Reuters)

(Production: Catherine Koppel)

Boston Marathon cancelled for first time in its history

UNTV News   •   May 29, 2020

The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled to be held in April and then postponed until September because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has now been cancelled for the first time in its history, organisers said on Thursday (May 28).

The race, held annually since 1897, is the world’s most prestigious marathon and generally draws over 30,000 runners from all over the world.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the race, whose field attracts decorated professionals and Olympians to amateur runners, was not feasible this year due to the pandemic.

“While our goal and our hope is to make progress in containing the virus and recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on September 14 or any time this year,” Walsh said at a live news conference in Boston.

The 26.2-mile race (42km), which extends from the suburb of Hopkinton to downtown Boston, is the first of the six World Marathon Majors to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, which brought live sports to a standstill in mid-March.

The Tokyo Marathon went ahead on March 1 with elite runners only, London was postponed to Oct. 4 from April 26 and Berlin organisers said the race will not got ahead in September but did not specify if it would be postponed or cancelled altogether.

The Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon have not announced any changes to hold their events in October and November, respectively.

The 2021 Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 19. (Reuters)

(Production: David Grip)

Brazilians scramble to board last U.S. flights ahead of travel ban

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Brazilians scrambled Monday (May 25) to make last-minute arrangements to get to the United States ahead of new restrictions on travel from Brazil.

A handful of passengers were seen at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport preparing to board a United Flight to Houston Monday after the U.S. government brought the restrictions forward by two days as the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in the South American nation surpassed the U.S. daily toll.

A White House statement amended the timing of the start of the restrictions to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, May 26 (0359 GMT on Wednesday, May 27) instead of May 28 as in the original announcement on Sunday (May 24).

Two days earlier, Brazil overtook Russia as the world’s No. 2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States. Washington’s ban applies to foreigners traveling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks.

Brazil’s coronavirus deaths reported in the last 24 hours were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time on Monday, according to the health ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths and 620 died in the United States.

Brazil has 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,988, according to Reuters tally, compared with Brazil at 23,473.

The travel ban was a blow to right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has followed the example of U.S. President Donald Trump in addressing the pandemic, fighting calls for social distancing and touting unproven drugs. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto)

No reports of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers in the past 13 days – DOH

Marje Pelayo   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) reported a slowdown in the COVID-19 incidence among healthcare workers in the country since April 11.

To date, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among healthcare workers is at 2,369.

The number of recoveries is at 1,220 while medical professionals who succumbed to the disease tally at 31.

Nonetheless, the DOH is relieved that in the previous week, no healthcare worker contracted the virus.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, this development is evidence that chances of recovery from COVID-19 is high.

Likewise, no active cases of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers remain in critical condition. 

Malaking tulong ang strict enforcement of infection prevention and control measures sa ating mga ospital sa pagsisiguro ng kaligtasan ng ating mga frontliners (Stirct enforcement of infection prevention and control measures in our hospitals helped a lot in ensuring the safety of our frontliners),” Vergeire said.

Healthcare workers are among the priority sectors in COVID-19 testing because of the nature of their job where the risk of infection is high. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)


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