Tuesday, April 04, 2006

OHSU: Spare Us the Legal Sob Story

Lately we’ve been inundated by stories about OHSU being victimized in the tram fiasco. They are now preparing to sue if we don’t shell for their stupid project. Isn’t it ironic how they run to court while denying their own victims the same opportunity? That’s right. OHSU has used its power and influence to deny patients the right to sue them. Oh, they can ask for 100 grand, but that just means you walk away with practically nothing, so why bother?
Perhaps you remember the story of the young boy facing a lifetime of brain damage because of admitted negligence on the part of OHSU. The family is trying to change the amount of damages, but it's a long shot, at best. What happens in a case like this is that the family burns through their wealth providing care for a growing boy with a badly damaged brain. Then they go broke and the state has to step in. One other point: OHSU does not make it a practice of informing patients or their guardians of their legal vulnerability prior to treatment. Otherwise, a lot more patients would not risk an operation there.
So let’s make a deal, OHSU. If you are so concerned about being treated right, why don’t we do what you'd do and slide you 100 grand? Then let's call this tram thing off. Better yet, why don’t you take some of the millions you’ve made throwing your weight around, and pay off the family of this injured boy? Then start telling your patients that if you screw up, they’re on their own. Let them know what it will cost them, even if it’s just a guesstimate. Listen, we don’t care how many feel-good ads your PR firm puts on local TV. Nobody sees you as the victim with the tram, so spare us the legal sob story.

8 Comments:

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous verasoie said...

Sorry, dude, I don't buy the arguments about OHSU being the evil villain in this poor kids tragic situation. As is typical, the truth is a lot more complicated than your overly simplistic and emotional appeal makes it out to be. They're the only public hospital in town, they take in 40% of patients who can't pay for their care whereas all of the private hospitals get to take in 10% (to maintain their coveted "charity" status) and send the rest packing (to OHSU). The only way OHSU can keep providing this extremely valuable service to to desperate people is to, amongst other things, have their liabilities limited by indemnification by the state. We, the public, mandate that they provide no-cost care, so we had better be willing to pay for it. Criticizing the situation is at best dangerously ignorant and at worst pathetically hypocritical. Disclaimer: I'm a medical student at OHSU.

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I appreciate your response, Verasoie. Would you agree at least that OHSU should inform its patients of the financial risk they take in the event something goes wrong? Isn't making an informed decision at the heart of good medical care?

 
At 12:32 AM, Blogger Torrid said...

I have no trouble believing OHSU is trying to get out of care for one of its mistakes...but that's totally not the issue here. The issue is where cost and blame and legal responsibility can be placed for overruns.

This is another good time to remind people that a sizeable--like, 85% increase sizeable--chunk of the overrun is steel prices, which have nothing to do with anybody except the price of steel.

It seems the crux is the timing between the initial design and the decision requiring a flush placement against the building (thus needing all the extra stabilization). As much as the City had ultimate oversight over the project, it was the contractors and OHSU who collaborated on the intersection of their two plans.

Council's on the hook for the time that elapsed since this overrun became clear, and how well they examined the pros and cons of continuing onward in recognition of those overruns.

OHSU seems kind of over a barrel here to me, but I'm no lawyer. Did the City promise them a tram at any cost and they'd foot the bill? The City's lawyers aren't THAT bad.

 
At 12:37 AM, Anonymous verasoie said...

Bill, I do agree with that, and so does OHSU. They are presently taking actions to alert the patients of this "loophole" when they register.

Another caveat is that, from reading the press about this kid, it seems like his case was one of the "charity" cases at OHSU, which ended tragically. I'm not saying his family hasn't gotten screwed, and I pity them, but the system is broken and changing OHSU's liability would only end up in causing kids just like him to get ZERO healthcare. What a rotten system.

 
At 4:49 AM, Blogger Frank Dufay said...

We, the public, mandate that they provide no-cost care, so we had better be willing to pay for it.

We mandate so we pay? Can somebody remind me when we took a vote on this?

 
At 6:30 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Could it be that city government should stick to the business of governing, and avoid these business deals where they flirt with being Junior Trumps without the expertise, and without having to pay business consequences if they lose?
The legal sob story angle is just that. One facet of this that troubles me. I bet the boy's family has sobbed a lot since they realized OHSU had legally cut them loose. Only these weren't PR tears cried by high-priced lawyers. These tears were real.

 
At 12:01 PM, Anonymous verasoie said...

Frank, surely you recognize that we live in a representative democracy. We have elected officials who have voted to mandate that OHSU provide care to individuals regardless of their ability to pay, and we the public at large are ultimately responsible for this policy.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

Torrid, I'm curious where you got the figure for steel on cost overruns. I was under the impression that much of it had to do with turning in a ridiculously stripped-down design, lacking design and engineering costs...not to mention some of the other shenanigans about the Marquam Hill landing (source: link). Taken together, that makes we wonder how 85% of the cost overruns could be driven by steel prices alone.

Whoops. I think I found it. According to the BIG write-up by The O's Ryan Frank, steel prices rose 85%. I'm sure a near-doubling of the cost of your materials takes a bite, but it sounds like it was the severe under-bidding and design-by-the-blind approach that made the whole debacle so wonderfully possible.

OHSU deserves to have their asses in this sling (more thoughts and a bad analogy). The city screwed up, but this is OHSU's frickin' fantasy.

 

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