The standard of care which is to be practiced by physicians is a national standard. This means that if a physician is practicing in New Orleans, Louisiana, he is held to the same standard of care as a physician practicing anywhere else in this country. When a physician takes the examination to become board certified in a particular medical specialty, that exam is a national one taken by other physicians from around the country seeking to become board certified in that specialty. Thus, Louisiana does not enjoy a greater or lesser standard of care than any other Louisiana city or city in any other state.
Medical Standards After Hurricane Katrina
Although Hurricane Katrina devasted health care in the greater New Orleans area, those standards have remained the same. After the storm, most acute care hospitals, including Charity Hospital closed. Doctors and other health care providers in the workforce relocated. Pharmacies closed ahd half of the nursing homes closed.
However, much progress has been made in health care after the storm. University Hospital, Charity's sister hospital, reopened in November 2006. Additionally there are plans to build a teaching hospital to replace the Veterans Administration Hospital and Charity Hospital. This massive facility is scheduled to open in 2012-2013. New Orleans has also benefitted from a 3 year $100 million federal grant to support access to primary care.
Insurance Claims for Medical Malpractice
LAMMICO (the Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company), remains as the largest insurer of medical malpractice claims in the greater New Orleans metropolitan area. The Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund, a group that funds malpractice claims above the first $100,000, up to the statutory cap of $500,000 also remains as viable (or moreso) since before the storm. As the largest city in Louisiana, New Orleans still generates the most number of medical malpractice claims. However, there are only 8 board certified medical malpractice attorneys in the greater metropolitan New Orleans area.
Negligence vs. Simply a Bad Outcome
Determining the difference between a bad outcome and medical malpractice can often be challenging for patients. The Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act and the cases interpreting it make it extremely difficult to successfully pursue medical malpractice claims. Louisiana's one year statute of limitations also makes it difficult for patients who have been the victim of medical malpractice to pursue claims. Louisiana also requires a patient who wants to pursue a medical malpractice claim to first submit the claim to a medical review panel before filing a lawsuit. Finally, the cost of pursuing such claims is made much higher by the need to retain experts to review the case and testify in court. Since local physicians are reluctant to testify against other local physicians, this requires the experienced attorney to seek out of state qualified experts.
If you live in the greater metropolitan New Orleans area, do not assume that the devastation of Katrina means that you are not entitled to the highest standard of care.