On a similar note, it’s been a few years since Long Island, New York doctor Harvey Finkelstein was infecting patients with HIV and/or Hepatitis B and C via contaminated syringes, and the New York State Office of Professional Misconduct covered it up for months and then allowed him to continue to practice without a day’s suspension. One might think OPMC had learned its lesson? Yesterday, NYPIRG, joined by Center for Justice & Democracy, Center for Medical Consumers and Consumers Union, released a new report, "System Failure," finding that “the number of doctors sanctioned by the state board of discipline has dropped to the lowest point in 15 years despite a growing number of complaints filed against doctors.” The Albany Times-Union reports:
"We are disappointed," said Blair Horner, legislative director for New York Public Interest Research Group. … The declining number of disciplinary actions was surprising in light of 2008 legislation that gave the state office more power to investigate doctors based on medical malpractice claims, Horner said. "We expected with the new powers there would be an uptick," he said.
The report also looked at medical malpractice payouts and found that the number of payouts have gone down while the total money paid out has remained relatively stable.
More than 200 doctors had 10 or more malpractice payments.
Meanwhile in Connecticut, the Connecticut Insurance Department just released a new med mal report examining closed claims over the last 17 quarters. Insurance companies had better stop complaining. The Department found, “Fewer than half of the medical malpractice claims settled by Connecticut insurers over the last four years resulted in payments to patients, and the average size of those payments fell last year.” Moreover, the decrease was for both economic and non-economic damages.
It also found that over half the payments were under $200,000. Only 16.4 percent of claims were over $1 million. These “represented about 70 percent, or $587 million, of the total indemnity payments made by insurers and captive/self-insurers.” But clearly, this is compensation for the most serious, preventable injuries. As the NYPIRG report found in next door New York State,
Malpractice payment amounts appear related to serious injuries or deaths. Death, catastrophic and permanent injuries received the most compensation from malpractice payments, both in frequency and dollars. This confirms findings from previously published studies.
Lesson from both studies: there is neither a lawsuit crisis nor an insurance crisis, but there is still way too much medical malpractice causing catastrophic injuries. If state agencies would do their job and weed out the small number of doctors committing the most malpractice, everyone wins. Wonder if anyone’s listening?