The Ebola epidemic may currently be confined mostly to Western Africa, but as has been seen, the disease is spreading. More importantly, there’s no cure for the disease as of yet, and with Dallas hospitals reporting a second nurse infected from an initial patient visit, there’s some major cause for concern in the medical world.
Yet the family of the first victim has already sent up the first red flare for the healthcare professional liability world. The surviving members of the initial Ebola patient’s family expressed interest in suing the facility that cared for him due to their suspicion of lack of proper medical attention. Though it’s unlikely the case will move forward, it could be a harbinger of things to come.
There are three good reasons why companies in the coverage field should be wary of Ebola. Like the virus, about 70 percent of cases have no cure besides improving protections. However, being prepared is the best defense in a world where claims management might explode with Ebola cases.
The CDC has already begun monitoring incoming airline passengers, but some are concerned about how to tell what’s happening in the emergency room fast enough to prevent cross-contamination. Business Insider stated that the first Ebola patient was left out in the open, but what about those who first handled him?
Nurses and doctors may not know someone has Ebola until after they’ve done blood work and other screenings. That can create a major healthcare liability issue if people become infected from open exposure or lack of forewarning.
With a second case of Ebola confirmed in Dallas and ongoing fears about how to prevent the spread of the illness, healthcare professional liability cases could skyrocket in the future. Plenty of news agencies and pundits have already questioned the practices and procedures used at the facility where the disease was allowed to spread.
The Insurance Information Institute stated that there are a number of ways people could contract the disease by coming in contact with bodily fluids. In other words, just wearing protective gear while dealing directly with the person isn’t enough. These procedures must extend to:
•Sheets the patient used
•The individual’s tableware
•Toothbrushes and dental hygiene products
•Mattresses used by infected patients
Basically, any contact with anything an Ebola patient has encountered could cause infection. That makes treating the disease incredibly taxing and expensive, as well as increasing the risk of healthcare professional liability complications.
CBS News reported that the Liberian national who touched down in Texas and brought the disease to the United States in the first place poses more healthcare professional liability problems than one. While his family may be trying to sue the institution that treated him, the man was also uninsured at the time. That leaves the hospital with a bill for roughly $500,000 and nobody to pay it.
Clinicians and medical practices of all kinds should be aware that Ebola could cause a major financial problem for anyone who encounters it. Apart from the infection risk, increasing mortality rates could mean that many physicians and practitioners have no way to collect on their premiums or copays, resulting in substantial financial duress.
This is even more troubling for healthcare professional liability providers, as these losses could become part of claims to recoup monetary interests. Adding more cases to the claims management load could overwhelm organizations, both in terms of stress and financial viability.