Today’s Editorial for March 11: Legislation needed for runaway malpractice rates

Being pregnant in the Cayman Islands could become a very scary thing if something isn’t done about ever-increasing malpractice insurance rates.

Malpractice insurance for obstetricians practicing in the Cayman Islands has gone up to a whopping $167,550 a year – and that’s when paid up front. Each doctor will have to deliver 86 babies in one year just to cover the costs of the insurance. That doesn’t take into account the overheads the doctor has to pay, which include nursing staff, office, equipment, supplies and meds.

Skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums aren’t endemic to the Cayman Islands; it’s happening throughout the English speaking world.

Companies that provide malpractice insurance are increasing the rates because they fear potentially huge, bank-breaking legal settlements from lawsuits that result when something goes wrong in the birthing process.

It’s gotten so bad in Nevada that many obstetricians have hung up their forceps and returned to practicing gynaecology only.

That means their patients – some who have been with them for years – will have to find another doctor if they become pregnant.

Pregnant women polled throughout the United States, who found they were no longer welcome in their OB-GYN’s practice, said they dreaded having to start a new medical relationship.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, OB-GYNs on average can expect to be sued two or three times over their career.

While the United States is certainly more litigious than the Cayman Islands, such lawsuits are possible here.

Our lawmakers have the ability to ease the burden on our obstetricians through tort reform legislation.

Such reforms have already been suggested to the Health Ministry, but so far the committee from the Health Practice Commission that made the recommendations hasn’t heard one word back from the Ministry.

Once again requests from the Caymanian Compass for comment from the Ministry were ignored. We believe the Ministry has a duty and an obligation to provide answers, if not to the Compass, then certainly to the respected medical professionals who spent long hours coming up with a solution to stem the high costs of medical malpractice insurance.

The increased malpractice rates could mean that OB/GYN’s will close the door to their OB services, leaving pregnant women fewer choices and causing some to go overseas to have their babies.

That’s doing a disservice to those women and this country. It’s a problem that could be dealt with through proper legislation.

Until then, our good doctors will continue to pay for the bad.

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