By Robert B. Surrick, Esq.
Governor Rendell, who will stand for reelection in 2006, has been making speeches around the state calling the medical malpractice crisis “more a perception than a reality.” The print media, without investigation into the facts, prints what he says as if it were gospel. He consistently cites as proof of his assertions that the “number of lawsuits are down.” This is a deliberately false statement designed to cover up the fact that he has done nothing in three years in office to address the building health care delivery catastrophe in Pennsylvania. It is also cynically designed to distract attention from the fact that his biggest contributor block is the trial lawyers who are sucking hundreds of millions of dollars from the health care delivery system. Here are the facts.
From May 22, 2002, when doctors were first required to report medical malpractice lawsuits to the Medical Board, to March 1, 2005, the Medical Board opened 6,185 files. A file is opened when a doctor reports being named in a lawsuit. That is an average of 187 doctors sued a month for 33 months.
From March 1, 2005 to December 31, 2005, a ten month period, an additional 2,464 doctors were named in lawsuits, an increase to an average of 246 doctors a month. In just November and December, 2005, alone, 680 doctors were named defendants in malpractice lawsuits, an average of 340 doctors sued a month. Source: Basil Merenda, Commissioner of Department of State and staff.
In fiscal 2003-04, 2100 doctors were named in malpractice lawsuits in PA. In fiscal 2004-05, 3,016 doctors were named in malpractice lawsuits in PA. Source: Medical Board, PA Department of State
In 2004, 92% of the residents trained in Pennsylvania left for another state. Source: AMA (2005)
From 2000 through 2004, forty-four neurosurgical residents graduated in Pennsylvania. Only 11 stayed whileA1 33 left Pennsylvania. Source: AMA Masterfile
Governor Rendell has received over 6 million dollars in contributions from the trial lawyers, his number one contributor. Source: Dept of State, Election Bureau
The cynicism is in attempting to trick the media and public by saying “lawsuits” are down while the number of doctors sued trends significantly upward. The cruelty is not telling the people that their health care delivery system is falling apart as doctors leave, residents flee, ob/gyn’s stop delivering babies, maternity wards close, and citizens with head trauma die for lack of neurosurgical care.
Robert B. Surrick, Esq., is executive director of Doctor’s Advocate.