Dr. Francisco Camero is from Bogota, Colombia. But he considers South Mississippi his home. As he sat in his Gulfport office, the family physician said, "All I want is to have a decent life, pay my bills and have my family here, because I made a choice that this would be my home."
His home is off Menge Avenue, just north of Pass Christian. Dr. Camero bought it in 1977. Last year, he was about to make his final house payment. But then, the doctor's malpractice insurance skyrocketed 300%. The Cameros' did the only thing they could think of. They took out a second mortgage on this home. "It made me sick," Karen Camero said. "But we didn't know what else to do."
Karen Camero is the doctor's office manager. She's also his wife, and the mother of his eight year old son. "This eight year old child is very intelligent," Mom said, "enough to know when Mom and Daddy are stressed and he doesn't understand why, we have to make him feel like he's safe. But I can't guarantee him that."
Dr. Camero admitted that Mississippi's malpractice crisis has stolen some of his zest for medicine. "It isn't as rewarding," he said. "It isn't as refreshing, because I've been impaired because of the fear that you'll be sued."
Since he graduated in 1967, Dr. Camero has only been sued one time. That lawsuit is still pending.
Right now, his office has more than 3,000 open patient files. The patients were why Dr. Camero was willing to mortgage his home, rather than move out of town. "I don't want to do that. I really don't," the physician said. "I love this area. It's beautiful. Great people, great group of patients."
Dr. Camero has two other sons besides his eight year old. One is an emergency room doctor in New Orleans. The other is going to medical school in Kentucky. The Gulfport doctor said neither son will join his practice, because they don't want to deal with Mississippi's malpractice insurance mess.