From time to time, an unfortunate event makes you want to sue a hospital. Your reasons may range from hospital malpractices to hospital negligence. If you are considering suing a hospital for alleged negligence experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. Hospital lawsuits have always been part of civilized societies.
To successfully sue a hospital, a patient must prove the failure of the hospital to meet the required legal standard of care. Yes, suing a hospital is no mean feat. You, therefore need a good and skilled lawyer.
The medical industry is at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. Consequently, hospitals and medical facilities have been stretched beyond their breaking points.
Health care practitioners are engaged in a delicate balancing act. They provide treatment for their patients while protecting themselves from getting exposed to the virus.
Many hospitals are afraid of contracting Covid-19 and so reject patients suspected of having the virus.
Some have pointed out that while medical practitioners should protect themselves from the virus, they must not neglect their duty of caring for the sick.
Why Hospitals are Rejecting Patients.
Reports of hospitals rejecting patients during the pandemic are everywhere.
The following are some of the reasons why hospitals are refusing to admit or attend to patients during this period.
Lack of Equipment and Infrastructure.
Many health care practitioners have pointed out that the high demand for hospital space has made it difficult to admit more patients than they can handle.
In areas that recorded a high incidence of Covid-19 infection, many hospitals found themselves overwhelmed and out of bed space.
Many hospitals also complained of a lack of equipment like ventilators, required to sustain people infected with the virus.
It is unlikely that a patient suing a hospital for lacking equipment like ventilators and protective gear will succeed.
Fear of contracting the virus.
Another reason why hospitals rejected patients was that many health care providers were afraid of contracting the virus.
Data from around the world showed that many health care workers had already contracted and/or died from the virus.
With essential protective equipment in short supply, doctors and other health workers feared for their lives.
According to some health care professionals, the need to be diligent in their profession does not include sacrificing their lives.
The incidence of rejecting patients suspected of having the coronavirus has been reported in countries across Africa.
According to reports, there is an increase in the mortality rate due to the rejection of patients with coronavirus symptoms.
Stress and Anxiety.
Health workers have also pointed out the fact that they are now working under the most stressful conditions.
According to them, the psychological impact of caring for patients during this pandemic has deeply affected their ability to attend to everyone.
Doctors and other health workers know that their actions are regulated and questioned by various regulatory agencies.
Some health care workers will, therefore, reject patients when they are not in the right frame of mind to provide the required standard of care.
The Call for Immunity.
The pandemic has created a situation where health care professionals are likely to face claims from members of the public.
Many health care professionals have started calling for law and policymakers to grant them immunity for their actions during the pandemic.
According to these health care professionals, the pandemic made some of them work in areas outside of their specialty.
While some countries have already enacted laws to protect health workers from lawsuits, others are toying with the idea.
Those against suing a hospital believe that health workers have made enough sacrifices by working under very difficult conditions.
According to them, it will not be right to sue a hospital or hold them to the same standard of care required of them during ordinary times.
Should Hospitals be Immune from Negligence.
But not everyone supports immunity for health workers during the pandemic. To them, it will be dangerous and indeed needless to grant immunity to medical workers for their negligence during the pandemic.
Those against immunity for health workers during the pandemic believe that the standard of proof of medical negligence is already high.
They also pointed out that granting legal immunity to health workers will lead to blatant and reckless actions by medical professionals.
According to them, legal immunity for health workers ignores the needs of the sick that are entitled to good care.
Generally, negligence is a breach of a legal duty to take care which results in damage undesired by the defendant, to the plaintiff.
Medical negligence is a substandard act or omission by a health practitioner which results in injury or death to a patient.
All over the world, orthodox medical practitioners subscribe to The Hippocratic Oath whereby they undertake to put human health above other interests.
Medical practice in each country is also governed by various laws and regulations in that country.
A breach of either the Hippocratic Oath or the laws and rules of professional conduct attract sanctions.
Apart from sanctions from the various professional bodies, medical practitioners can also be liable to their patients for negligence.
Can You Sue a Hospital for rejecting a Patient?
For the sick, the hospital is usually the last hope to get relief from whatever ailment is tormenting them.
Imagine taking a loved one who is sick to the hospital and no health care worker is there to attend to you.
Or being asked to deposit a certain amount of money before medical personnel will lay hands on your sick?
It is medical negligence to be rejected or refused treatment until a certain condition is fulfilled?
Other circumstances that can result in medical negligence include wrong diagnoses, keeping patients in unsanitary conditions, failure to provide appropriate treatment, etc.
Proving Negligence when you sue a Hospital.
Whether you will succeed when you sue a hospital for refusing to treat you will depend on the circumstances.
The claimant must establish among other things that the hospital has breached a legal duty which resulted in injury.
The courts in determining whether a defendant has breached a duty of care will consider what a reasonable medical practitioner will do in the circumstance.
It is not difficult to establish that hospitals owe a duty of care to patients who have been properly admitted. This is because once a hospital admits a patient, it becomes a contract between the parties.
On the other hand, establishing the liability of medical workers who refuse to admit a patient is not clear.
Some experts believe that medical practitioners’ duty of care extends to patients found within their premises.
The Rules of Professional Conduct for medical professionals consider negligence to include failure to attend to a patient when in a position to do so.
Wrapping it Up.
While health workers are working under the most difficult conditions, their services should however not fall below the acceptable standard.
Medical practitioners can be held liable for unprofessional conduct that results in injury to patients.
Hospitals have a right to refer patients to other hospitals especially when they lack basic pieces of equipment.
Refusing, however, to touch, attend, and give basic care to a critically ill patient goes against all medical ethics.