I am now retired but have spent 30 years practicing the specialty of General Surgery. As a board-certified specialist, I have been aware of the many problems our medical colleagues face. I believe the public is not aware of the pressures that are being applied to the medical community.
The public wonders why doctors are leaving the state to practice in a state with lower malpractice rates. They wonder why so many people are leaving the profession, and retiring early. They don’t realize, or perhaps do not want to concern themselves, with the fact that malpractice rates are rising – mostly because of frivolous law suits or suits without merit. Insurance payments have been reduced, incredibly, and Medicare has continued to reduce their benefits.
This is a gigantic squeeze play, where many practitioners feel that, as their office expenses and overhead continue to rise, and their income continues to decrease, they are unable to practice medicine. Most of these people began their medical career with high ideals and these have been trampled upon to the present day. What was once considered a challenging, but wonderful calling for life, has now become second rate and the best people are smart enough not to go into medicine.
One sad story immediately comes to mind. This is the story of a good OB GYN doctor who was a bachelor. And as a result, medicine was the biggest thing in his life. He took all comers to his office regardless of their ability to pay. He had a high percentage of non-payers. He continued to do this, and as a result, had a very large practice. Therefore he had more operations than most and more exposure to potential medical legal problems.
Because of these facts he had more than a certain number of lawsuits that the insurance company would accept. I don’t know the number of frivolous lawsuits or lawsuits without merit, that were brought against this physician, but I do know that the doctor was a very competent man. His insurance company dropped him.
When the insurance company dropped him he could no longer practice because the hospitals require a practitioner to have a large amount of insurance. This is to protect the hospital because when the doctor gets sued, they sue everybody who could potentially be involved. That includes the hospital. In that case, when both the hospital and the doctor get sued the hospital will, many times, take the brunt of the problem because of their “Deep Pockets”. This means that the lawyers will come after the hospital because they have more assets than an individual Doctor. The end result was that this physician could no longer practice medicine. He was a very good man, and in fact, many of the doctors would send their wives to him for treatment because they knew of his competency.