There Will Be Lawsuits

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We’re not hoping things go wrong, we’re just saying they probably will, and we’ll be ready.

That’s the gist of the message from medical malpractice attorney David Perecman, who writes with concern about increased the patient volume at some Manhattan hospitals following the closure of St. Vincent’s Medical Center in the coming weeks. Perecman runs the New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog.

Citing newspaper reports, Perecman writes that “patients are flooding the Beth Israel hospital in greater numbers,” and he asserts that, “When physicians and other hospital staff members get too busy, what typically rises in New York is problems related to medical malpractice.”

I called him to ask about this, and Perecman said he didn’t have any figures, and didn’t personally have any clients who suffered at hospitals affected by nearby closures, but he maintained there is such a pattern.

“You can only handle so much,” Perecman told me. “If you stretch your staff, they’re working beyond their ability. It’s like truck drivers before they changed the rules -- you can’t drive 16-17 hours a day for long before you start to get into accidents.”

Beth Israel has the closest emergency room to St. Vincent’s neighborhood, and Bellevue is the closest Level I trauma center, which means it’s licensed to handle the most severe medical injuries. Both are on First Avenue , Beth Israel on 17th Street, and Bellevue on 26th Street .

Beth Israel’s parent network, Continuum Health Partners, released a brief statement saying the hospital is increasing staffing to appropriately meet increased demand in the emergency department and other facilities.

"Despite this increase in patient volume," writes Continuum Spokesman Jim Mandler, "We remain confident in our ability to continue to advance both quality and patient safety.”

I asked Perecman whom he was writing for. He said several groups. In addition to his natural audience among his fellow personal injury attorneys, he said he wanted it to help others. “Clearly, it would be great if some hospital administration picked up the piece and looked at it and took extra steps to prevent medical errors. Or if some potential client had a problem and found the piece and it helped put them together with us, that would be good, too.”