LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Board Moves To Cut Medical Malpractice Suits
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday moved to cut down on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of a larger effort to decrease the county's overall legal liability. The county paid more than $50 million last year as a result of lawsuits ranging from police brutality to improper medical procedures at county hospitals. Looking to institute a more preventive policy, the board "created a position of inspector general for risk management, which will evaluate whether departments are following procedures to cut down on lawsuits." At the behest of Supervisor Gloria Molina, the board "also approved a new bureaucratic process designed to correct systemic problems before they rise to the level of litigation." The board said it hopes the reforms will not only save money, but reduce instances like the 1995 case of Maricela Panuco, who died as a result of negligence by employees at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, and whose family was awarded $300,000. Supervisor Don Knabe said, "Instead of being reactive, why don't [we] be a little proactive. ... You have to have someone autonomous, to have oversight." Molina said, "You're talking about real accountability." Dr. Donald Thomas of the county health department said the system had been a "reactive" one that "only recognizes problems when there was a legal problem." He noted that in the Panuco case, the department did not investigate the problem until a lawsuit was filed. The Los Angeles Times reports that the board also approved more than $1 million in payments for people who had sued the county (Riccardi, 1/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.