As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I have investigated and handled numerous lawsuits involving care provided to my clients at Memorial Hermann hospitals.
Memorial Hermann Health System is the largest non-profit health conglomeration in southeast Texas. This massive system includes 16 hospitals, eight cancer centers, three institutes for heart and vascular care, 27 sports medicine and rehabilitation centers, and many other outpatient centers.
When a patient is severely injured or dies because of questionable care in a Houston hospital, it’s important to immediately hire a top-rated Houston, Texas attorney with significant experience in handling medical malpractice cases. When the care was provided at a Memorial Hermann hospital, there are some reasons that this is even more true.
Nursing versus physician mistakes
Most people tend to think that a hospital should be legally responsible for any poor care or medical mistakes that happen inside its facility. I personally agree with that sentiment, given the high level of control and influence that hospital administrators often assert over the practice of medicine.
Under Texas law, however, the corporate practice of medicine doctrine states that only physicians, not hospitals, can practice medicine. The long and short of that means that except in exceptionally uncommon cases, it’s impossible to hold the hospital responsible for the poor care and mistakes of doctors.
Instead, hospitals are responsible for their own corporate acts as well as the substandard care provided by their employees. Typical hospital employees include nurses, therapists, and techs.
Experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorneys know that it’s unwise to take a shotgun approach when it comes to naming defendants in the lawsuit. Instead, from the very beginning of the investigation, it’s critical to uncover whether physician conduct or nursing/hospital employee conduct was the culprit in the medical negligence.
Alliance with UTHealth
Memorial Hermann has a well-publicized affiliation with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.
Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center is the primary teaching hospital for the UTHealth Medical School. This special relationship gives Memorial Hermann patients access to more than 700 academically-affiliated physicians in over 80 medical specialties.
There’s no doubt that this arrangement adds some truly gifted, cutting-edge physicians to the Memorial Hermann medical staff. But there’s also no doubt that the UTHealth-Memorial Hermann alliance isn’t all good for patients. There are two significant reasons for this.
First, in any teaching hospital there will typically be many more medical students and new physicians still in residency or fellowship training, in comparison to the fully-trained faculty members. In keeping with the teaching mission, most of the direct, hands-on patient care is provided by the doctors who are still in training. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this—everyone has to learn—so long as there is adequate supervision by the attending physicians or faculty members. In some situations, that simply doesn’t happen. When investigating a potential medical malpractice case at a Memorial Hermann Hospital, this is one of the first things that I look for.
Second, because all attending/faculty physicians and the doctors still in training, including residents and fellows, are on the UTHealth payroll, they are covered by the protections and restrictions of the Texas Tort Claims Act:
• A potential plaintiff must give notice of the potential claim within six months, unless UTHealth had actual knowledge of the claim.
• The negligence must involve the use or condition of tangible personal property. For example, if a surgeon accidentally cut the wrong structure using a scalpel, that would be covered. On the other hand, making the wrong diagnosis, ordering the wrong medicine, or misinterpreting a CT scan would not be covered.
• The total claim against UTHealth is limited to $250,000.
What you can do
If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured because of questionable care at a Memorial Hermann Hospital, it’s important to hire a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney immediately. I recommend selecting a lawyer with direct, significant experience in handling Texas medical malpractice cases and, in particular, cases involving hospitals in the Memorial Hermann system.