Articles Posted in Federal Tort Claims Act

Virginia residents should be aware that a recent study has shown that patients in hospitals where nurses work long hours are much more likely to die of pneumonia and heart attack. In most U.S. hospitals, nurses work 12-hour shifts exclusively, a trend that began during the 1980’s due to nationwide nursing shortages, the authors of the new study explained. The study went on to state that although many nurses like these schedules because of the compressed nature of the work week, the long schedule, as well as shift work in general, leads to sleep deprivation. “Alertness and vigilance required for providing good nursing care depend upon having an adequate duration of quality sleep and rest, and long work hours can impact the quality of nursing care and can increase the potential for error,” an author of the study stated. “Nursing work hours may also be increasing to compensate for decreasing physician work hours in hospitals because the medical profession has taken steps to limit the hours a physician-in-training may work, whereas nursing has not taken similar steps,” the author added. Along with long work hours, the work schedule factor most frequently linked with patient deaths was lack of time off the job.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases, including those involving nursing malpractice. They have obtained some of the largest jury verdicts and mediation settlements in Virginia over the past several years. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the medical care rendered to you, a family member, or friend. If we can help you, we will. Your consultation is free.

Virginia residents should be aware that according to recently released study, as many as 75 percent of hospital tests are not followed up on and this failure can have serious consequences for patients, including delayed or missed diagnoses and even death. Researchers analyzed 12 international studies and found that between 20 percent and 61 percent of inpatient test results, and between 1 percent and 75 percent of tests on emergency care patients, were not followed up on after patients were discharged. Follow-up was least likely for critical test results and results for patients moving between health care settings, such as from inpatient to outpatient care or to general practice. Rates of missed results were equally high for paper-based records systems, fully electronic systems and those that used a combination of paper and electronic records.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases, including those involving injury or death stemming from a failure to follow up on critical tests. They have obtained some of the largest jury verdicts and mediation settlements in Virginia over the past several years. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the medical care rendered to you, a family member, or friend. If we can help you, we will. Your consultation is free.

A jury in Norfolk, Virginia recently awarded a doctor beaten by a patient in a Virginia Beach psychiatric clinic a $5.35 million judgment. The award was against Psychiatric Solutions Inc. and First Hospital Corp. of Virginia Beach, the companies that own and operate the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, a 100-bed facility on First Colonial Road where the beating happened.

According to court records, the doctor was injured by the patient after the patient accused him of stealing. During trial, the doctor’s lawyer argued that the facility staff members should have known the patient was dangerous and prevented the injury to his client because of the patient’s previous behavior. The patient had earlier confronted the doctor on two separate occasions threatening personal injury before he actually attacked the doctor, fracturing his skull and eye socket and causing a concussion.

The doctor is still only able to work part time, and is not fully recovered. A spokesman for the defendants said that although the companies continue to dispute liability in the matter and might appeal, they are “sorry for [the doctor’s] injuries from the incident.” The judgment includes $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

In Virginia, residents (“doctors-in-training”) at teaching hospitals may be immune from civil liability based on the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity. National medical research, however, increasingly supports the long-held concern that lax supervision of residents at teaching hospitals contributes to patient harm, even death. “Teaching hospitals differ from other health care institutions at the systems level, with potential implications for patient safety,” according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. “Teaching hospitals require inexperienced providers to work long shifts caring for large numbers of patients with complex illnesses.”

Researchers surveyed nearly 700 residents from about 40 clinical areas at two teaching hospitals and found that about half of the residents reported treating patients who suffered “adverse events,” or complications. When those residents were asked whether they caused the error, roughly one-fourth said yes. Most complications were considered significant, and inadequate supervision was often cited as a contributing factor, researchers said. “The multiple caregivers in these settings are sometimes sub-optimally coordinated or lack adequate supervision. This creates potential challenges for patient safety,” researchers wrote.

Two years later, another study in the Archives analyzed data from nearly 900 malpractice claims and found 240 in which residents “played an important role in harmful errors.” The mistakes arose in more than 20 clinical areas and, for most patients, the errors caused “significant” or “major” physical harm or death. Negligent supervision – either by faculty physicians or upper-level residents – accounted for over half of the cases of resident error, researchers found. The mistakes seen in the malpractice cases were the “tip of the iceberg,” they added, noting that resident errors have gone largely unstudied. Best practices receive little evaluation and accreditation standards for supervision are lacking, the researchers said. “Our data underscore the importance of appropriate supervision,” they added.

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which allows people to sue the federal government for medical malpractice committed at federally funded clinics, was recently decided in favor of the family of a 6-year-old boy who suffered brain damage at birth. As a result of the brain damage injury, the child was rendered a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. The lawsuit was brought in federal court against the U.S. Government because the negligent doctor worked for a federally funded clinic. The $29.1 million verdict will be off-set by a $6.5 million settlement previously reached with the hospital.

Other claims allowed under the FTCA include those brought by dependents of active duty military members (active duty military personnel cannot sue the government for medical negligence at this time) who are injured or die as a result of medical malpractice by military medical personnel. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have successfully handled medical negligence cases against the federal government and have experience in federal court, which is where FTCA cases must be filed. If you have questions regarding potential malpractice committed at a VA facility or other federally funded clinics, call one of our attorneys at Pierce & Thornton for a free consultation.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals in Virginia and around the country were recently notified of a new program launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration aimed at reducing the likelihood of preventable harm from medication use. The “Safe Use Initiative” was started because “too many people suffer unnecessary injuries from avoidable medication misuse, errors and other problems,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Millions of people are harmed every year from inappropriate pharmaceutical drug use. Many injuries occur as a result of incomplete access to information about a drug, a patient, or the patient’s condition. “Only through coordinated interventions across all sectors of the health care system can we substantially reduce preventable injuries from using medications,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “All participants in the health care community have a role to play in reducing the risks and preventing injuries from medication use.”

The FDA highlighted several risk-reduction projects that may benefit from Safe Use collaborations, including evaluating consumer medication information, communicating about the risk of inadvertent overexposure to acetaminophen, implementing safeguards against surgery fires caused by alcohol-based surgical preps, and avoiding contamination of multiple use medication vials.

A recently released VA Inspector General report found ongoing problems at a Veterans Affairs hospital where nine patients died in surgery in six months – a mortality level more than four times the expected rate. As a result, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki pledged to send five top-ranking officials to investigate the ongoing medical errors at the government-run facility. The VA report also found other evidence of medical malpractice, including inconsistencies in the tracking of deaths, medical procedures performed by physicians without proper authorization, and inadequate record keeping of patient care.

Medical negligence committed by the government against a military dependent (active duty military personnel cannot sue the government for medical negligence at this time) can be pursued under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Under FTCA, a dependent of an active duty military member who is injured or dies as a result of medical malpractice by military medical personnel can pursue a claim in negligence. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have successfully handled medical negligence cases against the Federal government and have experience in Federal court, which is where FTCA cases must be filed. If you have questions regarding potential malpractice committed at a VA facility, call one of our attorneys at Pierce & Thornton for a free consultation.

Virginia active duty military personnel injured by medical negligence at a military hospital (for example, Portsmouth Naval Hospital) cannot sue the government. The law that prevents this type of lawsuit, no matter how negligent or even willfully reckless the conduct by the government in providing medical care, came from United States Supreme Court case Feres v. United States. The reasoning behind the Feres doctrine is that it protects the government from costly, time-consuming trials that could also damage military discipline.

Medical negligence committed by the government against a military dependent, however, can be pursued. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a dependent of an active duty military member who is injured or dies as a result of medical negligence by military medical personnel can pursue a claim in negligence. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have successfully handled medical negligence cases against the Federal government and have experience in Federal court, which is where an FTCA case must be filed.
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