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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on July 15th, 2013

Kroger | Burrus Week in Review


Acedo v. Adriane Springs
The family of a patient who sustained fatal hypoxic brain injuries filed suit against hospital administrators asserting that they failed to provide adequate and competent clinical staff to assist during the administration of anesthesia. The family also asserted that anesthesia technicians failed to access the chain of command during the procedure. The defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to provide an adequate expert report was dismissed. The Dallas appellate court held the expert’s opinion regarding administrative negligence failed to adequately explain how hospital administrators’ alleged breach of duty caused or contributed to the patient’s death. The court found the report adequately outlined the expert’s belief that if the anesthesia technicians had requested help from a physician sooner the patient’s airway may not have been compromised.

Knightstep v. Jeffers
A patient’s family filed suit against a physician’s assistant alleging she failed to provide a reasonable examination and failed to properly manage the patient’s hypoxia. The trial court denied the physician’s assistant’s motion to dismiss for failure to provide an adequate Chapter 74 report. The Dallas appellate court reversed, concluding that the plaintiffs’ expert failed to adequately explain how the alleged failures to perform an adequate exam and additional testing caused the patient’s death. The court found the report conclusory because it did not explain how a different, better result would have been achieved if the physician’s assistant had met the standard of care advocated by the expert.

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center v. Dixon
A patient who had a central subclavian line placed filed suit against an anesthesiologist alleging he improperly placed the line in an artery rather than a vein resulting in her experiencing seizures, a heart attack, and a stroke. The trial court denied the anesthesiologist’s motion to dismiss. The Waco appellate court affirmed. It concluded that the expert adequately addressed causation by stating that the improper placement of a line in an artery and infusion of medication through that line could have caused the patient’s adverse health consequences.

Valley Grande Manor v. Parades
A nursing home that received an adverse judgment at trial appealed the trial court’s refusal to apply a settlement with a second nursing home against the damages and for failing to include in the charge a question regarding the second nursing home’s proportionate responsibility. The appellate court affirmed, finding that the jury’s verdict represented damages solely for injuries sustained while the plaintiff was under the care of the first nursing home and the settlement represented damages associated with separate alleged acts of negligence. The court also held that it was appropriate to refuse to include a question on proportionate responsibility because jurors were asked only to consider the alleged acts of negligence that occurred at the first nursing home.

Aramburo v. Brown
A patient who underwent surgery for gastroesophageal reflux disease filed suit alleging the nursing staff failed to notify a physician of pain and fever signifying an infection and that she was discharged prematurely with an infection. The patient’s expert alleged both that the defendant physician should have ordered lab tests before the patient was discharged and that if the nursing staff had told him about the patient’s complaints of pain it would have been appropriate to order lab tests. The Houston appellate court overturned the trial court’s refusal to dismiss, concluding that the report contradicted itself regarding whether the physician should have ordered lab tests.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar
A medical professor of Middle Eastern descent filed suit alleging that racial prejudice and harassment by a fellow faculty-member compelled him to withdraw from the university. He also alleged that a supervisor at the university convinced an affiliated hospital to withdraw its offer to hire him as a staff physician in retaliation for his complaint. Jurors found for the professor on the discrimination and retaliation claims and the 5th Circuit reversed the discrimination claim, but upheld the verdict on retaliation. The United States Supreme Court reversed and held that plaintiffs alleging retaliation must establish but-for causation rather than proving that retaliation was a motivating factor in employment decisions.


Mandate Delay Could Help Job Market
The job market could experience a modest bump in response to the Obama administration’s decision to delay a mandate requiring certain employers to offer health insurance or face a $2,000 per employee fine, according to economists. Supporters of the federal health law reforms believe the delay will make the transition smoother for business owners, while critics point to the delay as a sign that the Affordable Care Act is flawed and harmful to business.

Study Finds ‘Preventable’ Hospital Costs Uncommon
Only a small percentage of hospital costs may be preventable, according to a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine. The study found that among the 10% of Medicare patients who account for 70% of acute care costs in 2010, only 10% of their hospital costs were the result of preventable conditions such as hypertension, urinary tract infections and uncontrolled diabetes. The study’s authors suggested that bundling payments to doctors and hospitals could help control costs.

CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth Acquires Robotics Surgical Device
CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth has acquired a da Vinci Si Surgical System. The robotic surgical tool allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures on patients, reducing recovery time for and minimizing blood loss and pain. Officials expect the device will also help recruit new physicians who trained with robotic devices during their residencies.

HHS Failed to Investigate Fraud Cases Due to Funding Shortfall
The Department of Health and Human Services was unable to investigate 1,200 cases of suspected Medicare or Medicaid fraud last year due to a shortage of funding. The failure to prosecute these cases may have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars that could otherwise have been recovered by the agency.

National Health Plans May be Unavailable in Some States

National health insurance plans envisioned by the federal health law reforms have been touted as a vehicle for increasing competition and reducing insurance costs but may not be available in many states next year. As many as 19 states might be without multi-state insurance plans when the online marketplaces begin selling insurance plans in October.

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