As a nurse practitioner and medical malpractice attorney representing injured patients and their families, I often am asked, “What happened to you that made you decide to change jobs from being a nurse practitioner to being a lawyer?” Many people see these two jobs as totally unrelated, requiring a drastic shift in priorities, values and skills. In reality, the transition from my role in the health care system to my role in the legal system requires very similar priorities, values and skills.
As I see it, injured and sick patients are why both nurse practitioners and medical malpractice attorneys exist. Both of these roles require someone to be willing and able to speak up for people who cannot speak up for themselves.
What I find so disturbing about the UPMC-Highmark battle over access to UPMC hospitals and UPMC doctors is that vulnerable injured and sick patients are clearly the pawns of these giant companies that put profit before patient safety. What will happen to patients who no longer have access to their doctors and hospitals?
For starters, a common cause of medical malpractice is the lack of communication between health care providers. This occurs with alarming frequency when the medical treatment is being given in the same health care system. Now patients will be forced to switch to a different health care system, further complicating communications between health care providers.
Without clear communication of vital medical information, bad medical decisions will be made, the wrong diagnosis will be made, the wrong treatment will be given and patients will be permanently injured or die as a result. That is outrageous!
Medical malpractice is when a preventable injury or death occurs. The UPMC-Highmark standoff is a setup for causing preventable injuries and deaths. Where is the outrage from the health care providers? Perhaps, the health care providers are just pawns in this battle, too. But is that an excuse or a reason not to speak up for those who so desperately need you — patients?
VERONICA A. RICHARDS