Are Florida Hospitals Hiding Bad Outcomes from the Public?
In 2004, Florida voters approved a Constitutional amendment giving hospital patients the right to see reports on deficient care and medical malpractice. Patients are permitted access to this information both before treatment and when choosing a provider. In addition, a medical malpractice attorney can use the information to help gather evidence. However, the actual documents collected cannot be used in a medical malpractice trial.
But according to the Miami Herald, hospitals are not complying with this law. When records are requested, many facilities claim the request is “unduly burdensome” and would take too long to even research, much less produce the records. Other hospitals claim their records do not fall under the scope of the law and are therefore exempt. Some others simply do not investigate claims to avoid any kind of documentation. Hospital defense lawyers also argue that these records are privileged and therefore cannot be shared.
Harlan Ginsberg of Coral Springs underwent surgery for kidney stones in 2006 at Margate’s Northwest Medical Center. The suit alleges that during the surgery, a doctor mistakenly cut a tube to his bladder and removed a kidney. Another doctor has testified the removed kidney was healthy. Ginsberg’s medical malpractice lawyer requested the hospital records about other “adverse medical incidents” for use in the case. The hospital responded with a 10-page affidavit claiming it would take over 235 days just to research the request. Later, they agreed to provide the records if Mr. Ginsberg would pay $77,500. When a judge never ruled on the records request, Mr. Ginsberg’s attorney withdrew his complaint in order to expedite the trial. Without the records, Mr. Ginsberg lost his medical malpractice lawsuit.
Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration has no way of enforcing the amendment. According to ACHA spokeswoman, Shelisha Coleman, making hospitals comply with the law “is up to the judicial system and is something that should be addressed in the courts.”