Doctors from two large Tampa, Fla., hospitals are considering a walkout next Monday in response to their frustration with malpractice insurance reform.
The walkout will coincide with the Florida Senate's special session, called by Gov. Jeb Bush, to resolve the malpractice award cap issue.
Media reports suggest that 75 to 100 doctors from 600-bed St. Joseph's Hospital and 431-bed University Community Hospital plan to participate in the walkout. The doctors involved will stop performing elective surgeries for the week.
"Doctors are just fed up," says Tampa head and neck surgeon Dennis Agliano, M.D., who plans to join the walkout. One issue he sees as crucial is the malpractice insurance premium rise. "The rates in some specialties are so high that the doctors cannot afford it."
However, high malpractice insurance premiums are not the only thing Florida doctors worry about. The Florida Senate debate next week will be a continuation of argument over the malpractice award cap. Several polls done by the Florida Medical Association in Tallahassee and Florida-area newspapers suggest that 65% to 75% of Florida residents support an award cap at $250,000 for noneconomic damages.
Conversely, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers has conducted a poll that found only 32% of Floridians support the cap.
The discrepancy between the numbers causes speculation on both sides. Brian Frere, spokesperson for the Tallahassee-based academy, states, "You have to look at the wording of the questions."
Frere explains that often the poll question is asked so quickly the respondent may not have enough time to really think about the issue.
Bill Bell of the Florida Hospital Association in Orlando offers another answer: "The general public has become more educated in the last year." He says believes that the FMA poll is accurate and that the people of Florida support the award cap.
The Florida Senate special session will begin next Monday. If this session fails to produce the desired results, the Senate could continue meeting until the end of September.
"Nobody knows" when a resolution might be reached, Bell says.