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Indian Health Service Hired Multiple Doctors With Sanctions and MedMal Lawsuits


The Indian Health Service, which is responsible for providing medical care on federally recognized reservations, allegedly hired numerous physicians with multiple medical malpractice complaints and/or regulatory sanctions for medical mistakes, according to the Wall Street Journal. This resulted in at least 66 deaths of patients in IHS care and 163 medical malpractice lawsuits totaling $55 million in settlements since 2006.

The IHS is a subdivision of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is responsible for providing health care to 2.6 million Native Americans spread throughout the country. In an analysis of the 171 physicians who were named in lawsuits against the IHS, the WSJ found that the IHS had hired 33 surgeons who had multiple medical malpractice claims filed against them. There were an additional 17 physicians who either had administrative sanctions against them, had their licenses revoked, or had criminal charges filed against them.

Why Weren’t These Physicians Flagged? 

Of the 171 surgeons named in lawsuits, there were at least 44 physicians who had pasts that should have been flagged by IHS prior to being hired. The IHS has specific guidelines for vetting physicians, and these guidelines were apparently not followed while the IHS was hiring.

The IHS responded by saying that this data was not an overall indication of the quality of care its patients receive, but noted that the IHS has a vacancy rate of 29% which is significantly higher than the national average, which is 18%.

The IHS also noted that it requires managers to check the National Practitioner Data Bank, but there is some indication that IHS officials did not follow up with individual hospitals to ensure that they were checking the data bank prior to hiring doctors. The IHS has rules governing which physicians can be hired—they need to have an unrestricted license—but local officials have the ability (if not the permission) to overlook this requirement.

It may simply be a matter of difficulty finding doctors willing to work with the IHS and the local hospital managers feeling as though they need to hire doctors with dubious pasts to take on some of the workload. However, those same doctors are held to the same standard as every other doctor who practices medicine in the United States and its the taxpayers who end up indirectly paying the bill when the IHS fails to properly credential their doctors.

But the IHS often finds itself in a position of interviewing candidates who are not qualified for the position. So the IHS then hires the least offensive candidate to fill the position and the quality of care suffers greatly as a result.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney Today 

If you’ve been injured because of a substandard quality of care, then you have a right to recover damages related to your future medical expenses, reduced quality of life, and loss of wages or earning power. Talk to the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation.




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