Carbondale, Ill., sent a message to Gov. Rod Blagojevich and members of the Illinois General Assembly that they need to address the state's medical malpractice crisis.
The Carbondale City Council voted 4-1 with one abstention Tuesday to approve an ordinance limiting noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to three times actual damages, provided the injury occurred within the city. The ordinance, presented by Mayor Brad Cole, also will prevent either party from moving such cases to courts outside Jackson County, where Carbondale is located.
Blagojevich and legislative leaders, gathered for a special session on the state budget, reportedly were scheduled to meet today to discuss possible measures to address the medical malpractice issue. A spokesperson for the governor could not be reached at deadline.
In May, the only two neurosurgeons in Carbondale quit their practices, citing soaring medical malpractice insurance premiums. Their departure left the southern third of Illinois without a neurosurgeon and forced Memorial Hospital in Carbondale to close its 10-year-old neurosurgery unit and airlift emergency patients elsewhere.
According to the ordinance, other physicians are considering leaving Carbondale and the loss of the two neurosurgeons has had "a deleterious effect on the health, safety and welfare of (the city's) citizens." The ordinance's goal is to "allow physicians to obtain medical malpractice insurance at a reasonable rate."
Cole said the ordinance will go into effect 10 days after passage, but its real target is the governor and state legislative leaders -- "to make them know something has to happen; if they don't move, the communities are forced to."