Nevada Attorney General Issues $50,000 Liability Cap for Las Vegas Trauma Center MDs
At least one orthopedic surgeon has agreed to return to work at the trauma center at Las Vegas-based University Medical Center, and several others are reconsidering their resignations, following a decision by state Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa (D) to temporarily cap legal damages in malpractice cases at $50,000 if physicians return to the center, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (Babula, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/11). The trauma center -- the only such facility in southern Nevada -- closed July 3 after all but one of its 58 orthopedic surgeons quit, citing escalating medical malpractice insurance premiums (California Healthline, 7/3). The cap, issued Tuesday, will be in effect for 45 days until the state Legislature can address tort reform; Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) has said he will call a special legislative session after July 26. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Daubs, president of the Nevada Orthopedic Society, said he is "willing to go back to work" and is "comfortable that [he] will be protected under the cap." Daubs said he has been encouraging other doctors to return as well. But Dr. Anthony Serfustini, UMC's chief of orthopedics, said, "The extension of this cap is untested in court," adding, "I don't know how much hope there is of the trauma center reopening this weekend" (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/11). UMC CEO William Hale said Monday that administrators hope to convince enough orthopedic surgeons to return to work so the facility's trauma center can be reopened by this weekend but added that he doesn't "want to give anybody false hope." The trauma center can reopen once 15 of the surgeons agree to return, Hale said (Babula, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/9).
UMC's trauma center closure has "troubling implications for Americans' future access to basic medical care" and should serve as "case study No. 1 of the need for state governments around the country to embrace tort reforms," a Washington Times editorial states. The editorial says that the shutdown is "jeopardizing access to essential health care services," but an even more important consideration is the region's ability to respond to a terrorist incident. Dr. John Nowins, president of the Clark County OB/GYN Society, told the Times that "Las Vegas is 'totally unprepared' to face a terrorist attack" without a trauma center. Because one of the "major" goals of the nation's homeland defense is "to be able to limit death or injury in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, ... Nevada should promptly consider a wartime exemption for trauma centers from ordinary medical malpractice law," the Times concludes (Washington Times, 7/11).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.