Fla. Doctors Detail Worsening Medical Liability Crisis

August 7, 2003

According to the Coalition to Heal Healthcare in Florida, more than 1,600 doctors from across Florida gave sworn statements to a state Senate panel this week detailing how the worsening medical liability crisis is forcing them to change their practices and eroding healthcare services for patients.

The affidavits were presented to the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, which recently held hearings on the issue and requested further documentation of the crisis. The statements were released publicly by a broad-based coalition of medical and business groups.

“These statements from doctors all over Florida clearly and credibly demonstrate the decreased availability of high-risk services that Floridians want, need and deserve,” said Sandra Mortham, the executive vice president of the Florida Medical Association and a top official with the Coalition to Heal Healthcare in Florida.

“There are numerous stories of decreased services in the areas of obstetrics, pediatrics, trauma and the detection and diagnosis of cancer,” Mortham said. “This means decreased everyday care for women and children, but the scarcity impacts all Floridians who may need trauma care in an emergency room.”

Coalition members said that the stories offer a strong warning for lawmakers – there is a crisis, and in some ways, it is even worse than previously thought. The affidavits were submitted by doctors practicing in the majority of Florida’s 67 counties, and detail the far-reaching effects of the crisis.

Coalition members emphasized that the sworn statements represent a sampling of how the crisis is playing out, but that additional statements from doctors are still coming in. Because physician practices are changing on an almost daily basis, the statements are not intended to be an all-encompassing look at the crisis.

The affidavits were only distributed to FMA members who were reachable by fax or email, and the return rate is affected by the amount of work required to respond. The results do not include doctors who already relocated their practices to other states.

In addition to the sworn statements, the coalition released a 90-page report on how the crisis is eroding healthcare in various counties across Florida. Available online at http://heal-fl-health-care-pdf.netcomsus.com/CountybyCountyImpacts.pdf. The report was culled from media reports, testimony before the task force of university leaders, updates provided by individual doctors and hospitals, and the sworn statements presented to lawmakers.

Coalition members stressed that the doctors’ statements and the county impact report show that reform is needed now to prevent further decline of care for all Floridians. The coalition asked patients to contact their legislators and demand an end to the crisis if their doctor signed a sworn affidavit or appears in the county impact report.

The Coalition to Heal Healthcare in Florida is a broad-based alliance of about 130 medical and business groups spearheaded by the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Medical Association.

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