Recent court documents reveal that the cost of the needless harm inflicted on residents in the city’s 11 public hospitals amounts to millions as determined by medical malpractice verdicts and settlements. In the fiscal year that ended in June 2012, the city paid $134 million. In the past four years, medical malpractice has cost the city more than half a billion dollars. Yet the city offers no plan to address this lack of proper care and improve patient safety.
The cases involve a wide range of medical errors, from obstetrical mistakes that have left babies brain-damaged to undiagnosed brain aneurysms. The eleven public hospitals include the Queens Hospital Center, where an infant suffered a skull fracture during birth. A Bronx hospital did not have the equipment needed to revive a baby quickly; today, the child can barely speak.
A woman from Queens was released from Elmhurst Hospital but collapsed three days later. Physicians at the hospital had failed to diagnose a brain aneurism; the woman is in a permanent vegetative state today.
The city has not responded directly to the report, but notes that medical malpractice verdicts and settlements are slightly down from the previous year, and are significantly down from the all-time high of $193 million in 2003. The current report lists 270 cases that resulted in verdicts or settlements to patients and their families whose lives were turned upside down by medical negligence and error.
The medical malpractice payments are only a fraction of the harm the city inflicts on it’s residents, which is estimated to reach $735 million this year, as detailed in a previous blog.