Doctors Fight to Keep Medical Liability Reform Bills Alive

By Mari-Ela David

KAILUA (KHNL) — Imagine needing emergency medical care but not being able to get it. It’s a situation that’s already happening and could actually become common place if Hawaii’s health care industry doesn’t make some serious changes. Many are out fighting to get something done about it.

At Castle Medical Center in Kailua, people rallied in support of making changes to Hawaii’s health care industry. They say it’s a problem that’s putting us all at risk.

According to medical leaders, part of the problem is doctors are more vulnerable to getting sued in Hawaii compared to other states.

Patients are already feeling the painful reality of Hawaii’s medical crisis.

“I’ve lost three surgeons: one for my back, another for my hand, and I’ve got arthritis and finding a decent surgeon is tough already,” said Joe Harding of Kailua.

“If you break a leg on a neighbor island, you may not be able to get an orthopedist to take care of you. If you fall and hit your head, you may not be able to get a neurosurgeon to take care of you,” said Dr. John Payne, a surgeon for University of Hawaii.

Doctors, patients, and members of the Hawaii Medical Association (HMA) are trying to raise awareness of the medical crisis. They say this is not just an industry specific issue, it’s a problem that affects everyone in the state.

In their search for a solution, medical leaders and lawmakers held a forum at Castle Medical Center on Tuesday. An expert from Texas joined in. He explained how medical liability reforms helped his state solve its doctor shortage.

“We did attempt to put a cap on non-economic damages which are pain and suffering, and other things that are very difficult to measure, to help address the crisis and need for insurance companies to raise their rates,” said Rocky Wilcox, Vice President of the General Counsel for the Texas Medical Association.

HMA says medical liability reforms will not strip victim’s power to sue.

“You can still sue for $5 million. You can still sue for economic damages. Lawyers will still take home a substantial sum of that lawsuit,” said Dr. Linda Rasmussen of HMA.

Medical leaders have introduced two bills calling for medical liability reforms similar to Texas, but if the Judiciary Committee refuses to hear them out by Friday, HMA says the bills will die.
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