Physicians are not obligated to accept new patients.
Once a doctor has entered into a physician-patient relationship, though, Texas law doesn’t allow the doctor to fire or abandon a patient on the spot. Instead, a physician must provide reasonable notice, which should be in writing and allow the patient an opportunity to find a new doctor. Although the Texas Medical Board doesn’t define how long reasonable notice must be, 14 to 30 days is considered reasonable.
From my experience, I’ve seen patient abandonment issues arise in two ways.
First, some physicians and their offices may refuse to schedule an appointment for a patient who is behind on paying the bill. This type of conduct violates the standard of care and Texas Medical Board requirements. Of course, the doctor doesn’t have to work for free and has the option of ending the physician-patient relationship with written reasonable notice. In the meantime, the doctor should continue to see the patient.
Second, I have handled quite a few surgical malpractice cases where surgeons had planned to be out of town for vacations or other purposes and didn’t arrange for another surgeon to handle post-operative care and problems for their patients. When filing medical malpractice lawsuits in these situations, I’ve alleged that the surgeons abandoned their patients.
One way that you can avoid the surgical abandonment issue is by talking with your surgeon about travel plans before scheduling an elective procedure.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.