Roughly 60 medical professionals working at Lower Bucks, Roxborough Memorial, and Suburban Community Hospital are in a major dispute with their former employer. Dr. Gerald O'Malley is one of the many that claims to not have been paid for about six weeks of work. Legacy Physician Partners, a staffing company was responsible for staffing the emergency departments at these hospitals. Prime Healthcare, the company that coordinated these contracts, abruptly canceled their contracts with Legacy. Amid this transition, the staff was never paid and does not have medical malpractice “tail coverage” for that period.
Paychecks Not Received
Once it was realized that paychecks were late, the employees were still encouraged to come to work. Many of the staff felt obligated to continue working for the sake of the hospital's patients. During this time, the medical director at Lower Bucks Hospital contacted Legacy regarding the missing paychecks. Progressive Emergency Physicians, the new organization that has now assumed the contract for staffing, explained that the back pay was being processed. Roughly one month later the funds had still not been received.
Allegations of “Predatory” Tactics
Many of the staff alleges that Progressive employed “predatory” tactics to force these workers to sign new contracts. Many feel the new contract terms are less favorable and did not wish to sign. They claim that Progressive was forcing them to sign the new contract to become eligible to receive the past compensation they were owed. A group of those workers is now pursuing legal action.
Company Files for Bankruptcy
Legacy has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; therefore, any chance of obtaining the past wages from them seems unlikely. The bankruptcy filing showed the company had millions of dollars in unpaid debt. Those who are filing a civil lawsuit accuse the company of “oppressive behavior”. Prime stated that they were forced to cancel the contract with Legacy because they became aware of their financial instability. The medical malpractice insurance payments also would be the responsibility of Legacy. This means that coverage would not exist if any of physicians face any potential claims of medical negligence from care administered during that period.
Hospitals across the country have increasingly been contracting with third-party agencies to operate their emergency departments. Rick Lucas, speaking on behalf of Suburban Community Hospital, claims that the hospital has continued to provide excellent medical care and is fully staffed. Dr. Joseph Matula, a physician who had worked under the Legacy contract, says that patient safety is likely being jeopardized. He has since begun working elsewhere but thinks that the hospitals are insufficiently staffed.
Understanding Medical Malpractice “Tail Coverage”
Medical malpractice insurance is critical for medical providers in today's litigious environment. “Tail” insurance coverage is applicable in the following scenarios:
- Many policies are classified as being “claims made”.
- Claims made policies provide coverage for claims of malpractice that arise only during the period when the policy is still in effect.
- If a given policy is canceled, expires or the physician moves to another employer, the coverage eligibility is terminated.
- Patients often are not aware that a medical error or mistake occurred until long after they actually receive the care.
- Tail coverage is necessary for protecting the practitioner from claims that were the result of care while under the former (now terminated) insurance policy.
- Some claims made policies offer tail coverage as an extra option available for purchase
- Policyholders may also consider buying tail coverage independently from another insurer
- Often when a physician switches employers the new insurance provider will provide the tail coverage for that past period