Domnick Cunningham & Whalen – https://www.dcwlaw.com/
The medical industry has had to dramatically adapt its practices during the pandemic, relying on virtual doctor visits or indefinitely postponing treatment to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease, COVID-19. Now that vaccines are being widely distributed throughout the United States, medical facilities are starting to ease their restrictions and allow in-person appointments again. Unsurprisingly, this change has caused a huge increase in hospital and medical provider appointments, which may also cause a spike in medical malpractice cases.
Medical Distancing Amidst the Pandemic
Medical distancing was a serious priority at the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals and other medical facilities did not have enough beds or resources to provide care for the influx of COVID-19 patients while treating other non-critical patients. As a response, medical providers reduced their admittance capacity for non-COVID-related cases, reserving care and equipment only for urgent or critical patients. The new protocols did allow treatment for procedures that could not be safely postponed, like heart surgeries; however, all other medical operations and appointments were delayed. Some practices opted for virtual calls to conduct routine appointments, while others were simply unable to do so due to the nature of the medical services.
Medical Distancing as the Country Opens Up
The CDC’s efforts to reach herd immunity with vaccinations has been an ongoing battle. Currently, over 57% of the U.S. has received at least one dose, and while this isn’t the previously predicted number that doctors were hoping for, it has greatly reduced the number of cases. This has resulted in fewer restrictions among vaccinated individuals in settings such as social gatherings, restaurants, and medical facilities.
Although the vaccines are not 100% effective, current studies show a significant decrease in the likelihood of hospitalization or death in vaccinated individuals. States like Texas and Florida were among the first to repeal all restrictions initially put in place during the lockdown. As the country continues on its path to normalcy, medical facilities are beginning to allow in-person patient appointments and procedures to resume.
Medical Malpractice Cases Predicted to Increase with the Opening of Medical Facilities
Now that hospitals and providers are starting to accept non-critical patients and routine services again, the demand for appointments has skyrocketed. At the same time, medical companies are very eager to open their facilities full force to gain back the economic growth they lost during the pandemic. Lawyers are also preparing, but not for the same reasons. Medical malpractice attorneys are expecting to see a surge in malpractice cases; as the number of appointments and procedures increases, the number of medical errors will follow.
Medical malpractice is an act by a medical professional during the treatment of a patient that deviates from the accepted practices and causes an injury or worsened medical condition. Medical malpractice can be the failure to diagnose a condition, misreading medical results, surgical errors, premature discharge, or any other mistake that results in harm to the patient. The legal industry predicts that doctors will be more prone to make these mistakes now that the demand for hospitals and medical facilities has rapidly increased in such a short period.
One reason for this prediction is due to a lack of equipment. Medical equipment like ventilators continue to be used exclusively for COVID-19 patients in many hospitals across the nation. Therefore, the lack of equipment for other patients can increase the likelihood of malpractice errors. Additionally, the pandemic has continued to sweep across the U.S. with the new Delta variant that is said to be more contagious and even more deadly. Doctors are now treating coronavirus infections alongside other patients resulting in many hospitals being understaffed and overbooked, which, historically, results in a rise in errors.
As medical malpractice attorneys, we are already seeing cases arise from the pandemic impacting the quality of care in these facilities. Medical errors are extremely serious and can result in severe harm to patients, some of which may be permanent. As the pandemic runs its course, only time will reveal the impact these hospitals and other medical providers will have as they handle an unprecedented number of patients.