Dr. Terry Smith is the only neurosurgeon that covers Ocean Springs Hospital, Biloxi Regional and Gulf Coast Medical Center. When a patient comes into the emergency room with a brain or spinal cord injury, quick access to a neurosurgeon is critical.
"I saw a patient three weekends ago who was becoming brain dead in the emergency room, and I came within 30 minutes. We rushed him to surgery within an hour, and now, he talks, he sits up and he watches TV and he's far from normal, but he's much better than he was and this is a case where if he had had to be transferred to another hospital, his brain would have died and he would have died," Dr. Smith explained.
Two weeks ago, Dr. Smith learned his malpractice insurance would not be renewed after August 4th. He learned quickly what several other coast doctors have complained about--that finding an insurance carrier is next to impossible.
"I've tried 14 different companies and I'm told by 11 of the 13 that they're not writing policies in Mississippi," he said. "Most of the time they're citing the need for tort reform and the high jury awards."
But trial lawyers blame the insurance companies for making bad investments that have cost them money. Lawyers say Mississippi juries usually side with the doctors.
"But if the insurance companies and the trial lawyers differ on that then they need to have mediation and get that straightened out because everybody else is caught in the middle," he said.
Even if he wanted to practice without insurance, Dr. Smith says the hospital would not allow it. He says he likes the coast and would like to stay in Mississippi, but if can't find an insurance carrier soon, he will be forced to move.