Victory for Missouri Patients

Posted on August 1, 2012

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Jefferson City, MO – Yesterday, the state Supreme Court struck down a 2005 ruling which capped punitive damages awarded to victims of preventable medical harm at $350,000. Read the full story here by Blythe Bernhard and Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I’ feel as though I’m wading into a pond full of snakes here, but I must weigh in on this decision. As you well know, HealthCare PSI has no political agenda, nor political leanings. The reason for that is simple: both political parties are working in lock step against patients. They may have good intentions, but policies by both Democrats and Republicans have done more to harm than help.

On the left side of the aisle, we have a sincere attempt to reduce health care costs, mostly by lowering the bar on the qualifications and training of those who provide care. Increasingly, hospitals rely on community volunteers and students from their own schools of medicine to fill staffing vacancies on all shifts, and in all departments. Simply put, the kid who sold you a lottery ticket at the  gas station this morning could very well be the trainee that attempts to start your IV in the ER tonight. The wholesale practice of allowing untrained and unqualifed people to provide medical care is a major source of preventable medical harm. Hosptials are systematically replacing well-trained, quailified nurses, technicians and other staff with newbies who are cheaper to employ, and they have the blessing of the Democrats in this practice.

On the right side of the aisle, well-meaning politicians are also trying to hold down medical costs by completely eliminating lawsuits. They’ve been convinced by hospital lobbyists that most lawsuits are frivolous. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been a patient advocate for nearly five years, and have yet to hear of a frivolous lawsuit. I do, however, hear countless stories of patients who have been permanently harmed but cannot get legal help because their injuries are not “catastrophic enough” to warrent the time requiredfor an attorney to spend on their case. 

Both parties are being controlled by the same puppetmaster –  hospital industry lobbyists – working on different ends of the spectrum to completely insulate themselves from public accountablilty.

The answer to eliminating lawsuits is quite simple: provide quality care. Period. Care that is just “good enough” kills, maims, and destroys lives. Care providers – particularly hospitals – should not be allowed to walk away from their responsibility to provide the quality care they advertise to patients.

I published this graph when it came out several weeks ago, but now is a good time to take a really good hard  look at this chart from The Commonwealth Fund. Notice Missouri provides it’s patients with some of the worst care in the nation. Heads up, Missouri hospitals: time to raise the bar on the care you provide. The Missouri Supreme Court got this one right.

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