When vacationing in this beautiful state of ours, the presence (or lack) of medical care is something you probably pay attention to if you like any number of outdoors pursuits or you are the parent of a young child. You hope that you or your kid will never break an arm or twist an ankle, but you should be prepared in the event that does happen.
If you’ve ever spent some time in the Adirondacks, you’ve likely noticed that doctors are incredibly rare.
There are so few doctors’ offices to pull from that back in 2014 ago the emergency room at Lake Placid’s Adirondack Medical Center went part-time, from 24 hours to 15. Mind you, Placid is a world-renowned tourism destination where injured skiers, hurt hikers and lost campers are not uncommon from Whiteface and the High Peaks.
If you are familiar with the popular Old Forge area in the Central Adirondacks, there are 3 medical offices there. There are no other doctors between OId Forge and places like Long Lake, Indian Lake, and Remsen. If a resident or visitor needs pediatric care, they have to drive more than an hour to Utica or Lowville. It’s that long of a painful ride to ERs in those same communities.
This is something that’s not unique to the North Country.
Similar shortages can be found throughout rural areas of Central New York and the Southern Tier.
In all, over 1,000 doctors are needed statewide just to keep up with demand.
That’s a staggering number, and one that’s growing as physicians age-out or close their practices and seek full-time employment at hospitals and urgent care centers.
There are a variety of factors that have led to this healthcare crisis. Above all, it’s tough for a doctor to earn a fair income in rural areas with fewer potential patients.
He or she needs to earn an income commensurate with the task (and pay off college debt), provide living wages for staff, invest in the latest in medical equipment and have a facility from which to operate. The potential of having a better business model and greater incomes in the suburbs or urban locales is what draws doctors to where the people (and, in turn, profits) are.
When you are talking about those special doctors who try really hard to stay in rural areas and make a living while tending to a higher calling, every cent truly matters.
When the economics are against them we can’t allow the government to make things worse.
And that’s exactly what the New York State legislature is doing.
Both houses passed a bill -- now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature or veto -- that would expand medical liability in the Empire State. This burden would dramatically increase the cost of the already-expensive medical malpractice insurance policies held by doctors and further expose them to the considerable monetary risks that are unique to their profession.
It’s not as if New York is lacking in malpractice payouts. The state’s laws and judicial system has New York doctors leading the nation in that regard.
Malpractice payments on a per capita (per resident) basis are over $36 here. New Jersey comes in second place at $29 while California, a land once believed to be as litigious and generous as New York, comes in at just under $6 per resident. Total malpractice payments in New York State in 2014 alone were nearly $714 million.
It’s not that we have a disproportionate number of bad doctors. It’s just that we have a system that penalizes like none other. State laws and the insurance woes they create hurt everyone, even the successful and most-skilled.
It’s no wonder WalletHub ranks us as the worst state in the union in which to be a doctor as based on 14 critical metrics.
It shouldn’t be that way.
As with any industry, we should make it attractive to do business here.
Expansion of malpractice liability won’t do that. It will only serve to drive doctors away, putting millions of New Yorkers and those who spend their tourism dollars here at risk if, God forbid, the worst ever happens and care is needed.
Here’s hoping Governor Cuomo truly values the health and safety of upstate New Yorkers and vetoes this bill.
From the 10 July 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers