When people call Painter Law Firm for help on Texas medical malpractice cases, they often want to hold the hospital responsible for what happened to them. Did you know, though, that under Texas law doctors aren’t allowed to be hospital employees? That’s the rule under an old common law principle called the corporate practice of medicine doctrine.
Despite what all the advertising and billboards suggest, hospitals are generally only accountable for their own corporate acts and the negligence and poor care of their employees.
Corporate negligence of hospitals
Plaintiffs can hold hospitals responsible for their direct, independent actions. Here are some common examples:
• Making unreasonable hiring decisions.
• Failing to ensure health care provider employees are safe and competent.
• Not firing or terminating unsafe or incompetent employees.
• Inadequate supervision of employees.
• Poor infection control practices.
• Substandard policies and procedures for safe facilities and patient care.
• Bad or absent training of employees on safety, policies, and procedures.
Because physicians can’t legally be hired by hospitals (and there is a general desire of Texas elected officials to protect hospitals and doctors from legal responsibility for their actions), there’s not a cause of action for negligent hiring or retention.
There’s a similar process to hiring, though, called credentialing. Doctors apply to be a member of a hospital’s medical staff with privileges to be able to perform a list of medical services, procedures, or surgeries.
Unfortunately, Texas law requires a showing of malice, or actual intent to do harm, in order for a plaintiff to hold a hospital responsible for its credentialing decision of a physician. On top of that, hospital committee, peer review, and credentialing privileges apply to prevent any key documents from being subject to discovery or subpoena.
The long and short of it is it’s almost always a losing battle under Texas law to go after a hospital for any physician negligence.
Hospital responsibility for employee negligence
Hospital employees include licensed and unlicensed personnel like registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), respiratory techs, radiology techs, pharmacists, therapists, social workers, case managers, and personal care assistants (PCAs). Under common law principles, the hospital, as the employer, is vicariously liable for the substandard care and negligence of its employees.
In my long experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, these are some of the common nursing and hospital employee mistakes I’ve seen:
• The pharmacy dispenses the wrong medication or dosage.
• A nurse or PCA administered the wrong medication.
• A nurse or therapist recognizes a change in patient status but doesn’t inform a physician.
• A nurse doesn’t follow a doctor’s order.
• A case manager or social worker doesn’t ensure that a patient has appropriate at-home care scheduled and in place before discharge.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of physician or hospital errors, then a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney can help you get answers by investigating your potential case.