Patients Call for Medical Liability Reform

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) - For months, doctors have been sounding the alarm of a health care crisis in Hawaii. Now, patients are joining the effort and talking to lawmakers about the doctor shortage problem in our state.

While there's a shortage of primary care doctors throughout the state, there's also a lack of trauma care physicians. It's a situation one young man found out first hand.

Brock Raymond loves living in Maui and riding his motorcycle. One rainy night in November, his life almost ended when his bike skid and crashed into a guardrail. His left leg was severed. Surgeons were not available on Maui to reattach it. So he was flown over to Oahu six and a half hours later.

"Those hours are very critical," said Dr. Linda Rasmussen, an orthopaedic surgeon who practices in windward Oahu. "Once you hit six hours, there's no chance of re-vascularizing and saving the tissue. It's dead beyond that point."

"Six and a half hours is a long, long time when someone is bleeding with severe trauma and in my son's case, it was very, very severe," said Charles Raymond, Brock's dad.

Brock lost his leg. He is recovering at the Queen's Medical Center. His family is frustrated, but not at the medical community.

"I'm most thankful to the doctors and staff at Maui Medical Center, but I certainly wish they would be given the equipment and the resources needed to effectively do their jobs," said Raymond. "It's not a reason of bad personnel. They're good people. They're good doctors. They're good nurses. There's just not enough of them to cover."

Brock's family members say his experience made them feel like they're not as important as folks living on Oahu.

"We're almost penalized for living on Maui, Kauai, Big Island," said Raymond. "That's what the people of the outlying areas feel; just being completely and totally let down and they forgot about us."

The problem has spread to even Oahu.

"We even had that situation at Castle, where people from Castle needed to go to Queen's and we had patients from Castle go to Maui because there were no beds at Queen's," said Dr. Rasmussen.

Patients and doctors gathered at the State Capitol to make their voices heard.

"We need to do something in the legislature," said Dr. Rasmussen. "The problem is the trial lawyers are so powerful in the legislature, that unless the public becomes involved and makes this an election issue, I can tell you nothing will happen."

They hope the legislature passes medical liability reform this session.

"We hired you to do a job for us, but nobody else but the people, the people of this fine state that are suffering and they don't deserve that."

They are asking lawmakers to take leadership in Hawaii's medical crisis.

"If you have children and if you love your kid, I mean truly love your kid like we do, what if it was yours?" asked Raymond. "What if it was your child over there? What if it was your 22-year-old now that can't walk because he doesn't have a leg?"

They say, sooner or later, people of Hawaii could be personally impacted by a medical trauma.

"You may get along for five, ten years without being in a major car accident, but when you are, it could be your leg that is lost," said Dr. Rasmussen.

About a dozen or so legislators attended at least part of Thursday's meeting at the Capitol.