Medical Malpractice and New York Public Hospitals

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New York City has the largest municipal public health care system in the country, with 11 city hospitals offering more than 7,000 beds and serving 1.4 million New Yorkers every year. According to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HCC), which operates the system, in 2011 the New York hospitals handled over 1.1 million emergency room visits and more than 22,000 births.

With numbers like that, it is not surprising that the HHC also pays out an impressive number of medical malpractice settlements and awards every year. For the fiscal year ended June 2012, those payments totaled $134 million. (The system reports that annual malpractice payments have actually been declining steadily since reaching their peak in 2003.)

It does not help that when Consumer Reports recently rated patient safety at hospitals throughout the country, the organization concluded that of the 50 lowest-scoring hospitals nationwide, 30 are in the New York City area — and the five lowest-ranking hospitals were all in New York, with the HCC-run Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx winning the race to the bottom.

For those without health insurance, public hospitals are often the only option for receiving acute medical care. HCC reports that it serves close to half a million uninsured patients a year. Fortunately, when medical malpractice becomes an issue, the ability to pay has no bearing on the ability of the injured patient to get compensation. This is because most New York personal injury attorneys accept medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis — in other words, attorneys are paid out of the final settlement or award, not out of the pocket of the plaintiff. Therefore, any patient who believes he or she suffered negative outcomes because of substandard care at any hospital should feel confident contacting a personal injury attorney for help.