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Hospital negligence putting Buffalo firefighters at risk

When a New York medical malpractice investigation looks into a claim of hospital negligence, the inquiry focuses on at least two principal areas. First, what actually occurred and how did it happen? Second, what did the hospital do or not do that caused or contributed to the injuries? Considering the second question, were there previous complaints of hospital negligence similar in nature? If so, what were the specifics and what did the hospital do to address the issues?

All of these questions address the hospital's duty to exercise reasonable care with its patients. A dispute is brewing in Erie County that could have serious implications in future claims of medical malpractice, both for hospital negligence and negligence on the part of governmental authorities contracting for medical services of its employees.

The union representing Buffalo's firefighters claim that the hospital charged with medical care of its members has been releasing firefighters to return to work while they are still injured. One employee was said to be sent back to work while he still had missing skin on his hands from a recent chemical fire. Another with a knee injury was simply told to go back to work, elevate his leg and use an ice pack.

The medical services were contracted by the city as part of a collective bargaining agreement with the union. The medical pact was touted as a means of providing better care at substantially reduced cost. The union argues that its men are also having difficulty scheduling appointments with doctors and getting necessary medication filled. For its part, the hospital refused to answer specific complaints, referring those interested to the city that contracted the services.

Should a firefighter receive improper medical care and follow up for his work-related injury, a claim of hospital negligence may be well founded, and the fact that prior complaints of the same type of wrongful conduct went unheeded could play an important role in any litigation. Further, the city that contracted the medical services could face liability if it did not follow up on previous complaints and contributed to creating an atmosphere where fire fighters were forced to return to work with lingering medical problems. A New York attorney devoted to helping victims of medical malpractice may help lay the groundwork for holding negligent or reckless parties fully accountable.

Source: Firehouse, "N.Y. Union: Hospital Clearing Injured Firefighters," Aaron Besecker, Sept. 15, 2011

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