It Is Time to Start Doing Better in Our Hospitals
As recently pointed out by the New York Times, medicine, with its many life-saving accomplishments, can also cause harm. While the first and most important principle in medicine is to do no harm, this has been a challenge with the current pandemic, which has forced hospitals around the country, including here in Rhode Island, to constantly engage in medical improvisation, inevitably leading to some devastating consequences. ICU units and COVID-19 tents were hastily erected in parking lots. Those who worked in other areas of medicine or nursing administration – and who had never worked in emergency rooms – were brought in to provide care for patients in the clinics, and medical students were allowed to join the ranks early to help as well.
In March and April, the US healthcare system was swarmed with patients suffering from the virus. Things did go wrong and, at times, medical care fell below the standard it should be at, with staff working outside of their comfort zones. At times, patients even reportedly died simply because residents were unfamiliar with managing ventilators. Patients with non-COVID-19 illnesses suffered as well due to prescriptions running out, surgeries being postponed, infections going untreated, and more. A number of doctors desperate to help patients were left prescribing medications such as hydroxychloroquine before the science verified their safety, likely doing more harm than good, and time should have been taken to train staff, as, even with the delays, more lives likely would have been saved as a result. However, there is now time for hospitals and healthcare workers to pause and reflect on what can be done better.
What Is the Status of the Governor’s Executive Order Limiting Lawsuits Against Health Care Workers?
Although the Governor of Rhode Island signed an Executive Order that extends statutory immunity regarding hospital and nursing facility capacity, that order only provides immunity for responding health care facilities, health care workers, and others who are affirmed and/or deemed to be “disaster response workers” entitled to immunity under Rhode Island’s laws, and this excludes certain types of activities that result in harm.
The original Executive Order – 20-21 – which provided that immunity and expired on May 8, 2020 – was replaced with Executive Order 20-33, which also provides some immunity to hospital and community-based health care through June 7, 2020. Specifically, it provides immunity from liability for health care workers providing community-based health care, services at surge hospitals, and services in existing hospitals for patients with COVID-19. However, this does not cover anyone who is not affirmed to be a “disaster response worker” entitled to immunity under the law and cases of willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith. In other words, any negligence that results in injury or death by someone who is not affirmed to be a disaster response worker, as well as willful misconduct, gross negligence, and/or bad faith, can result in a malpractice lawsuit. In addition, the governor’s previous order indicated that patients who suffered from negligence that was not in connection with COVID-19 could also file a claim for liability.
If You or A Loved One Has Been Harmed by Medical Malpractice in Rhode Island, Contact Providence, Medical Malpractice Lawyer Michael Kiselica
If you or a loved one has suffered due to medical malpractice here in Rhode Island, contact Providence medical malpractice lawyer Michael Kiselica to schedule a safe, confidential consultation and discuss your options. With over 40 years of experience helping those who have been harmed by misconduct or negligence, our office is ready to provide the assistance you need.