“Make this simple change to free up hospital beds now”

Doctors need legal assurance today that they won’t get sued if they send low-risk non-virus cases home rather than keep them in scarce beds getting marginally valuable tests — even if it is only a temporary step for the duration of the emergency. [Jeremy Samuel Faust, Washington Post; Faust is an emergency physician at Brigham & Women’s in Boston, and an instructor at Harvard Medical School]

18 Comments

  • Testing and tents please

  • Ah yes, let’s immunize doctors, whom we already know are generally not interested in your health, from their malpractice. Great idea.

    • Ah yes, doctors “are generally not interested in your health.”

      And commenters are generally not interested in coming off as anything better than blithering idiots.

      • Now, Walter. Be kind.

        Personally, I’m awaiting the Morgan & Morgan TV ads to change focus from We Don’t Sue The Driver Who Hit You, We Sue The Insurance Company, to:

        “We don’t sue your Doctor, we sue the insurance company.”

        Meanwhile, just realize that people who don’t understand that practicing Defensive Medicine carries hidden, but very high costs either never studied economics, or flunked the course they took.

  • In general terms this proposal makes sense, but it is terribly vague. What exactly is the proposal?

    A second question is how it can be implemented. Medical malpractice is a state matter. Does the federal government have the authority to do this, or must each state take action?

    • While the author does leave the concept vague in the Post piece, he is more specific in this tweet: he thinks the emergency standard should be raised to gross negligence or malice, rather than simple negligence.

      https://twitter.com/jeremyfaust/status/1239529445251338240

      On the second question, state law currently governs. Much of the time, there are federalism problems with having Congress override state medical malpractice law (potentially countered in this instance by the argument that the current unique emergency is of national dimensions; state tort law is already ousted from some other areas like railroad and maritime worker injury where a national scheme applies). Either way, it’s not the sort of thing that executive power, whether presidential or gubernatorial, could ordinarily accomplish.

      • One thing that the federal government could, I believe, do without federalism problems is agree to indemnify physicians and hospitals which turn away low-risk non-virus cases. This would be similar to what the Ford Administration did when it assumed liability for injuries due to the swine flu vaccine in order to encourage the pharmaceutical companies to make it available.

        • “One thing that the federal government could, I believe, do without federalism problems is agree to indemnify physicians and hospitals which turn away low-risk non-virus cases.”

          The federal government does not have infinite money to spend. Where do you expect the money to come from?

          • No, it doesn’t, but this wouldn’t necessarily be a vast amount. Consider also that epidemics cost both the economy in general and the government a lot. Indemnification may be cheaper than the cost of the disease that it presents and the additional health care costs incurred by misallocating resources.

          • Whether or not it would be expensive, or too expensive, isn’t really the same question as that of whether it could be done without federalism problems,

          • “Consider also that epidemics cost both the economy in general and the government a lot.”

            I would say that the majority of the economic and government cost is not due to the epidemic itself, but due to government overreaction and general panic.

            According to the WHO sitrep report on corvid19 for yesterday, 3/16 the US still has lest than 1700 confirmed cases and only 41 deaths (for the whole country), and there have been no new confirmed cases in the US for 2 days.

            Note: Those pounding on the panic button and pushing drastic government action have a vested interest in making the epidemic look/sound worse than it is.

            To the extent that there are different numbers from different agencies/organizations, I will put the greatest trust in the lowest numbers.

  • 5,303 U.S. cases and 96 deaths, with both numbers rising rapidly day by day.

    https://www.nytimes.com/news-event/coronavirus?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

    • Don’t believe the NYT’s numbers.

      https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200316-sitrep-56-covid-19.pdf

      US: 1678 confirmed cases. 41 Total deaths. Days since last new confirmed case: 2.

      • And of course you also do not believe the CDC’s, which are updated on a slower basis and currently stand at 4,226 cases and 75 deaths.

        https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

        CDC itself says that “In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.” The NYT is collecting from the data reported by states, which are by CDC’s own standard the more current numbers.

        • “And of course you also do not believe the CDC’s, which are updated on a slower basis and currently stand at 4,226 cases and 75 deaths.”

          Nope. The CDC has strong incentives to make the problem seem worse than it is. And they have been mashing the panic button hard.

          Even if I did accept their number, they aren’t all that concerning. Despite the availability of inoculations, the US sees millions of seasonal flu cases every 6 month flu season. While corona19 might be more deadly than the seasonal flu, claims that it is more contagious than the seasonal flu, which have been made, are nonsense, when actual corona19 numbers are compared against seasonal flu data.

          https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm

          Seasonal flu 2019-2020 estimate: 36,000,000 – 51,000,000 cases. for a six month flu season.

          That’s

          1,384,615 to 1,961,538 cases per week
          197,802 to 280,219 cases per day

          Stop the panic, just STOP.

          • MattS,

            At the time you wrote that there were no new cases in the past two days (Tuesday) my county had just announced its first confirmed case on Monday at 18:30.

            That’s within your “no new cases within two days.”

            While not trying to say that you are wrong, what I am saying is that the numbers are changing so rapidly, it is difficult to think and believe that the numbers – anyone’s numbers – are spot on accurate at any given moment.

  • It is the WHO numbers that I don’t trust. I, like some others on this site, currently live in the greater Seattle area. The Life Care Center of Kirkland alone has 29 deaths. King County has 43, and Washington state has 50.
    On the less gloomy side, note the way viruses work. We are still in the early stages, but the deadly viral infections kill the host which usually kills the virus. We can expect the death rate to decrease while the infection rate rises. In later stages, the serious cases will taper off. This will eventually become a typical flu strain. (Actually 2 strains, so far.) Then a different virus will get its time to shine.

    • “The Life Care Center of Kirkland alone has 29 deaths. King County has 43, and Washington state has 50.”

      Confirmed with tests of tissue samples, or are they just blaming any deaths from unknown causes on carona19?

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