During Luis Fortuño’s government, the then Secretary of Health signed the 544-2004 Regulation from the Department of Health. In said Regulation, which defined and created the trauma centers, the possible compensation to medical malpractice victims was limited to only $75,000. The terrible thing of this Regulation was not only the limitation of said compensation, but that it included any medical malpractice act committed in the trauma center or in any other area of the hospitals that had trauma centers, extending the limited compensation to the doctors who work there. Far from creating the aforesaid “trauma centers”, this Regulation had the awful intention of creating a protective mantle that covered the hospitals and doctors who worked there. Nothing less could be expected from a government that during those four years managed to protect the health care class against the best interests of the patients.
The past 13th of August 2013, Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed a legislative project, supported by the Senate and House of Representatives, and eliminated retroactively the compensation limit of $75,000 to victims of medical malpractice in trauma centers. This amendment can only be categorized as a justice in favor of victims and all the patients in Puerto Rico.
The Legislature understood that the Department of Health overstepped by approving said Regulation. Firstly, the Regulation was approved “in the darkness of the night”, literally. Secondly, it protected all trauma centers, which, according to the Regulation’s definition, only required sufficient facilities as to stabilize a patient until he or she were transfer to a hospital with the capability of providing medical treatment. Thirdly, understood as an act of social justice, the Legislature made the effects of the new statute retroactively, meaning that the limit established by the Regulation will not affect any case that is before the courts.
We want to congratulate the Puerto Rican Association for Medical Malpractice Victims, since this statute was made possible due to their efforts.