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Healthcare Update – 02-21-2011

See more health news from around the web on the Satellite Edition of this week’s update over at ER Stories.net.

The “Valentine’s Day Massacre” – healthcare budget style. Cook County Hospital system in Chicago slashes nursing staff in its hospitals. Oak Forest hospital will fire more than 100 nurses, leaving it with only 27 nurses. Provident Hospital will cut 37 nurses, leaving it with 67 nurses. In addition, Provident Hospital begins refusing patients by ambulance. The hospital had planned to divert all ambulances last month, but postponed its plans to give other area hospitals time to prepare for the almost 5,000 extra patients each year.
One Chicago alderman asks “How far are we going to reduce the value of people’s lives?”

57 year old man walks into South Carolina emergency department … and shoots himself in the head.

“Doctor drain” from New York (with many physicians heading to Texas) attributed to high insurance premiums and high litigation costs. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a keynote speech at the New York State Bar Association’s Presidential Summit and noted how states with lower malpractice premiums are attracting more doctors from states with higher medical malpractice premiums such as New York. He even interviewed several physicians who left New York for Texas and who stated that their reason for leaving was because of high insurance premiums.
The president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association called Mayor Bloomberg’s speech a “surprise attack rooted in bad data.” After all, who knows more about how how the system should be working than a group who has a vested interest in keeping the status quo?

Trial lawyers looking to “protect [their] gravy train” by releasing “primer” on medical malpractice lawsuits.

More patients gone wild. Montana man brings gun to hospital emergency department looking to “shoot people from child protective services.” Taken into custody in the waiting room and gets a room at the Greybar Motel until he can come up with $100,000 bond.

California man requests that police officers come to the emergency department so that he can “confess something.” After they arrive, the patient tries to grab one of the officers’ guns. Get him a room with the guy from Montana.

You had your chance to get vaccinated. Influenza cases packing emergency departments. At one North Carolina hospital, patients with influenza symptoms are waiting 15 hours to be seen because of the increase in number of patients.

Estate of New Mexico patient wins $10.3 million at trial after patient developed bedsores on his heels after being admitted to hospital for several weeksl. He later died of unrelated causes. The award included $9.75 million in punitive damages.

Child awarded $19.2 million after being given 100 times the dose of nutrients after she was born which allegedly led to a cardiac arrest and other “severe complications.”

13 year old patient wins $1.4 million settlement after developing anaphylactic reaction to allergy shots and ending up brain damaged.

Canadian hospital shuts down emergency services for the weekend because of nursing and radiology tech shortage. The next closest hospitals are more than 100 kilometers away.

Canadian emergency physicians take video footage of conditions in the emergency department and post it to YouTube when they can’t get administration to respond to problems such as mold growth, overcrowding, and outdated equipment. Doctors began complaining about the conditions in 2004. Suddenly, the Canadian health minister reported that fixing the problems is now a “priority.” Hat tip to Grunt Doc.


  1. I wonder how hospitals are doing in US towns of fewer than 2000 people.

  2. Are there town with less than 2000 people who have hospitals?

    • I’m not sure, but for reference- my little hometown of 5000 in Indiana has a hospital. I believe it’s the smallest town in Indiana with a hospital, and I know it’s considered a Critical Access Hospital.

    • Yes there are. There were two hospitals – small ones, mind you, but still hospitals – in neighboring towns when I lived in South Dakota. My town had about 740 people – the two towns with hospitals were probably in the 1000-1500 range.

  3. I used to work at Oak Forest Hospital – I can’t say that this new surprises me at all. I’ve watched them slowly implode with stupid political decisions for the last 10 years.

  4. Interesting about the allergy shot lawsuit. I knew something must have happened (I live in the Metro Detroit area), as my new allergist REQUIRES you to bring 2 Epi pens with you for routine allergy shots (not talking exotic stuff like stinging insect desensitization). No Pen=no shot. God help you if you try an sneak out early after a shot, you will get bounced as a patient.

    This allergist also has a crash cart in his office. Homeboy ain’t taking no chances. Lol. It’s a change of pace from my last allergist who never prescribed Epi-pens and let everyone leave right after their injections.

  5. Sad. About the man going into the ER and then shooting himself. :(

  6. “After all, who knows more about how how the system should be working than a group who has a vested interest in keeping the status quo?”

    As opposed to, say, physicians who have a vested interest in tort reform because they hope it will lower their premiums? So they’ll cap the damages of the worst injured so their insurers will maybe pass a few dollars down? Yeah, it’s the other side who’s greedy.

    Check the per capita physician stats for New York and Texas. Yeah, Texas is really killing them! Facts, man, facts.

    • http://www.statemaster.com/graph/hea_tot_non_phy_percap-total-nonfederal-physicians-per-capita

      New York – 3rd per capita in non-federal physicians

      Texas – 40th per capita.

      Where’s the “good data” that makes your case, WC? Couple interviews a politician says he collected from some physicians? Is that what qualifies for “data” in your world? I hope you don’t choose which drugs to use just based on anecdotes.

    • Back at it again, eh Mattuendo?
      Question: “who knows more about how how the system should be working than a group who has a vested interest in keeping the status quo?”
      Strawman argument: “Check per capita physician stats …” < -- has nothing to do with the question. But thanks for proving the underlying theme of that snippet, though. So getting back to the original question, which plaintiff's law firm should society interview to find the real reasons why physicians are leaving New York and going to Texas? Obviously, actually interviewing the physicians who have left isn't good enough for you. According to this article on EP Monthly, the number of newly-licensed doctors in Texas increased from 2038 in 2002 (the year before tort reform) to 3621 in 2009 — a 78% increase. In that same time frame, the Texas population increased from 21.7 million to 24.7 million — a 14% increase. The population increase has been fairly linear both before and after tort reform, yet the number of newly-licensed physicians suddenly took an uptick after tort reform.
      So give me some “facts” showing me what other event occurred in 2003 and has been occurring since then which would explain the increase. Solar flares, maybe?

      Just looking at your “nonfederal physicians per capita” “facts” – first of all, why select out federal physicians? Are we next just going to select out non-federal left-handed democratic physicians?
      Then, let’s look at the populations of the states. Texas has about 25 million versus NY which has about 19 million. Using the site you gave us, New York has 77,000 physicians (second in the US), Texas has 49,000 physicians (third in the US) – neat how you try to widen the difference by using the rankings “per capita,” though.
      We don’t know how many of those physicians are licensed and practicing versus nonlicensed and doing research or teaching. We don’t even know how many physicians trained in NY and moved but who just kept their licenses active in case they ever want to return. We can assume that the numbers of nonpracticing physicians are skewed in favor of NY since NY has more than double the number of “nonfederal” residency positions that Texas does (3213 versus 1523). Not only are there more residents, but there are more doctors needed to train the residents.

      But all of these statistics are academic and feed into yet another one of your strawman arguments.
      Real question: What has happened to medical care and number of physicians before and after tort reform in Texas?
      Matt’s answer: “This many doctors are in the state at one point in time.”
      Two completely different issues. My question deals with trends, your answer deals with a static number.

      You keep plugging along, there, though. Maybe a couple of the people on the ATLA listserv will stop by and support you.

      • The claim was that New York was losing physicians to Texas. The stats show if they are, it ain’t very fast. You’ve shown no evidence of any “trend”, in fact NY has remained in the Top 5 through several malpractice “crises”. I realize you think this is new, but it’s in fact about 40 years old.

        If you want to add in federal physicians, be my guest – but since they already had tort limitations at the VA and in the military, I don’t know how that helps your case.

        I use per capita, because per capita reflects access – which you say repeatedly is key. Your ability to get in to see a physician in large part is going to depend on how many others want to get in as well.

        All the rest of your post doesn’t change those facts. You don’t need ATLA, the AMA, or anyone else to read those.

        Sorry they conflict with your opinions. But then, your opinions were created before the facts, weren’t they?

        One question though, what do any of your arguments have to do to protect those injured by malpractice or lessen the amount of malpractice? They seem to all be geared toward saving liability carriers money. Is that your goal as a physician?

      • You also neglected to mention that many Texas physicians came from California. If tort reform were key to their move, why leave that state?

  7. I’m a huge proponent of vaccines, and get my flu shot every year… Despite this, I still managed to get the flu two years ago. I have never felt so sick in my entire life. Just pointing that not everyone who gets the flu is against vaccinations.

    However, I did not go to the emergency department. That’s an entirely different issue.

  8. One of the hospitals I cover is in a town of 2000- and it is busy as hell .Very,very busy. They have a hard time recruiting physicians because of the volume and the fact that you will NOT get any sleep if you work a 24. Another one I quickly quit wanted the ER doc to cover labor and delivery !!!!Any patient in labor was put into L&D and the ER doc was to check their dilation , contractions, etc and call the only OB if they were in actual labor.
    Thanks lawyers, for chasing off the OB’s !
    Needless to say, I did one shift and left.

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