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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on January 14th, 2013

CASES

Weathers v. Lopez
The family of a stroke patient filed suit two days after the statute of limitations had expired. And the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant hospital. Plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the patient’s health began to deteriorate a few days after the stroke occurred during surgery or when he died. The Houston appellate court affirmed the summary judgment, holding that if the date a tort occurred is ascertainable the statute of limitations runs from that date. The date the patient’s stroke occurred was ascertainable. The court also rejected a suggestion that it should grant equitable relief and permit the suit to move forward in spite of the lapsed deadline.

Ezeikial v. Shorts
The parents of a child who died shortly after childbirth filed suit alleging that a delay in treatment after troubling heart rhythms were detected resulted in their child’s injuries and death. The defendant ob/gyn sought dismissal on the basis that the plaintiff’s expert report did implicate her. The Houston appellate court held the report was inadequate, but not so deficient that plaintiffs were not entitled to a 30-day amendment period. The expert opined that if the nurses communicated the patient’s status to a physician and an ultrasound was nonetheless ordered, rather than an emergency delivery, they should have accessed the chain of command. This language does not actively describe the doctor’s alleged negligent conduct, but it is clear that the expert’s opinion is that the defendant doctor should not have ordered an ultrasound under the circumstances.

NEWS

Plan Calls for Merger of Two UT Schools, New Medical School
The Texas legislature will consider proposals this session that call for the merger of the University of Texas – Brownsville and the University of Texas – Pan American as well as the establishment of a new medical school. The creation of a new university would permit it to access the Permanent University Fund, a resource that the individual universities cannot otherwise draw from without the passage of a constitutional amendment. In a separate vote, the legislature will also consider a plan to convert the UT system’s Regional Academic Health Center based in Harlingen into a full-fledged medical school.

Study Finds Pelvic Exams Frequently Medically Unjustified
A nationwide survey of obstetricians and gynecologists found that many routinely perform bimanual pelvic exams for reasons that are not medically justified. Many respondents erroneously believed that the exam is important for ovarian cancer screening. Other physicians reported that they perform the procedure because it reassures patients or because patients expect it.

Online Physician Reviews too Scarce to Inform
A study of online reviews of urologists found only an average of 2.4 reviewers per physician, suggesting that a single negative or overly positive review could unfairly skew the doctor’s rating. While 80% of consumers in a Pew Internet Project survey report using online ratings services to research products or services only 20% report using the Internet to research health care providers’ ratings.

Average Physician Spends 11% of Career Facing Open Claims
The average physician will spend over 50 months, or approximately 11% of a 40–year career, waiting for the resolution of open or unresolved malpractice claims, according to a recent study by Health Affairs. The study found claims against younger physicians typically resolve faster. Claims against pediatricians and obstetricians are open the longest, while claims against physicians practicing in nephrology and oncology were resolved the fastest.

Medical Surveillance Technology Could Curb Costs
Surveillance technology may be able to help identify health threats to seniors before they emerge. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society is exploring the benefits of monitoring technology at assisted nursing facilities it operates. Sophisticated sensors and other technology could save money by reducing the number of physical visits required or preventing falls, but whether it will prove economically effective in the long run remains uncertain.

Severe Flu Season ‘Wreaking Havoc’ on ERs
A particularly hard flu season is hitting emergency rooms hard in some parts of the country, prompting several hospitals to go on bypass in response to the heavy patient load. Over half of US states have experienced severe influenza activity.

Supreme Court Considering Medical Malpractice Awards and Medicaid
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case implicating the reimbursement of Medicaid expenses from medical malpractice awards. Federal law prohibits states from imposing liens on Medicaid patients’ property, which includes a malpractice settlement. This ban extends only to the portion of a settlement that does not cover medical care, such as pain and suffering. The case before the Supreme Court involves a settlement in which the parties did not specify how much of the award was for medical care.

Texas Physicians Who Accept All New Medicaid Patients Drops
Only 31% of Texas physicians will accept all new Medicaid patients, according to the Texas Medical Association. In 2010 and 2008, 42% of physicians reported that they would accept all new Medicaid patients, while 67% of respondents reported the same in 2000.

Baylor College of Medicine Names Wayne Keathley to Lead Expansion
Baylor College of Medicine has announced that national health care veteran Wayne Keathley will lead its clinical expansion efforts, with a focus on the BCM Medical Center on the McNair Campus. Keathley currently serves as president and chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Texas Children’s Hospital Earns CMS Organ Transplant Certification
Texas Children’s Hospital has received national certification from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for heart, liver, and lung transplants. The hospital has also been recertified by the agency for kidney transplants.

CHRISTUS Freestanding Emergency Department Opens in New Braunfels
A new freestanding emergency department, The CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Emergency Center has opened in New Braunfels. The 12,000 square foot, 10-bed facility includes on-site imaging services, a full laboratory, and a full hospital emergency department staff, including an on-site respiratory therapist. Patients who require admission will be transported to the main hospital for further treatment.

 

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