CARSON CITY, Nev.-Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn signed Nevada's new tort reform measure into law earlier this month, taking a big step toward calming physicians' concerns about skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums. Earlier, both houses of the state Legislature had unanimously approved the measures, which cap noneconomic damages at $350,000, except in cases involving gross negligence or when a judge finds "clear and convincing" evidence that higher damages are warranted. Guinn called a special session of the Legislature after 58 orthopedic surgeons quit working at the state's only Level I trauma center, closing the center for 10 days because of liability insurance costs.
TUCSON, Ariz.-After five patient deaths tied to medical errors, 457-bed Tucson Medical Center has paid a fine of $10,750 and faces surprise inspections from state healthcare officials for the next two years. Hospital officials said last week that payment of the fine is not an admission of guilt. The officials said they had put a plan of correction in place before the state acted, after a healthy 73-year-old man admitted for knee-replacement surgery died because a nurse mixed up oxygen and suction tubes. Investigators looking into the case discovered four other mistake-related deaths within the past two years. Internal hospital records and state investigators blamed the mistakes on overworked nurses. The hospital, Tucson's largest, was cited for failing to investigate each of the deaths and failing to take steps to prevent a recurrence of the mistakes. Other violations included failure to provide adequate nursing care. While the hospital has hired 100 nurses this year, it still has about 70 slots to fill. It must present a correction plan to the Arizona Department of Health Services, which imposed the highest fine possible for separate violations of medical-care rules by a state healthcare facility. Separately, Tucson Medical Center earlier this month postponed plans to build a clinic about 15 miles southeast of the hospital in a fast-growing area of the high desert community after Davis-Monthan Air Force Base objected that the site was too close to its flight path. The hospital, owned by TMC HealthCare, had hoped to eventually develop an acute-care hospital on the site. "We've pulled back to reassess the location. We're still hoping to bring healthcare resources and services to this underserved area," hospital spokesman Michael Letson said. U.S. Air Force Maj. Gary Carruthers said the base had apprised Tucson city officials of the hazards involved in locating a hospital or busy clinic near the flight path of military jets carrying live explosives. "We didn't think it would be a good idea to put a large population off a runway," he said.