BELLE GLADE, FLA., AUG. 7 -- A shooting victim without insurance waited for 13 hours before doctors could find a hospital that would accept her for surgery, a hospital official said.
The case of Edwina Haynes, 25, listed today in serious but stable condition at Tampa General Hospital, was cited as another example of treatment delays linked to the medical malpractice-insurance crisis in Florida.
"We called 14 neurosurgeons and six hospitals, and some just simply said, 'I'm not interested in her because I'm not interested in a lawsuit,' " said Dr. Richard Thomas, director of emergency services at Glades General Hospital.
Glades General has never had a neurosurgeon on the staff and had to transfer Haynes, who was shot in the back, allegedly by her boyfriend. The bullet had damaged her spinal cord and pierced her liver.
Haynes spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning here as doctors and nurses tried to find a hospital that would accept her.
"With the state's malpractice situation, it was just a matter of time before this happened," Thomas said.
On the hospital's 20th call, Tampa General agreed to accept Haynes, and she was flown 150 miles Thursday afternoon to the Gulf Coast hospital by a private medical service.
"Her vital signs are stable following surgery," a hospital spokesman said.
Dr. Thomas McKell, Tampa General's medical director, said he had no qualms about accepting the patient. "It was a medical decision based on an emergency that needed immediate care," he said. "I didn't feel we had a choice."
The task of finding a suitable hospital was complicated by recent moves by hundreds of south Florida physicians to cut back or quit practice in the face of record malpractice-insurance rates.
Malpractice premiums for Dade and Broward County neurosurgeons average $192,420 a year, while the statewide average is $102,339.