Hospital Group Registers Voters To Help Tort Reform Fight

The Mississippi Hospital Association organized the voter registration efforts at Gulf Coast, Biloxi Regional and Garden Park Medical Centers. Its goal was to make sure that some of Mississippi's 44,000 hospital workers have a say in future health care policies adopted by the state legislature.

Dr. Lynn Leatherwood is the chief of staff at Garden Park Medical Center. Last week, he had to treat a cancer patient, because the patient's oncologist didn't have malpractice insurance. "Basically as a primary care provider," Dr. Leatherwood said, "somebody who doesn't have the training or the background to handle that type of specific problem, I had to take care of that patient, which compromised the patient care."

Physicians such as Dr. Leatherwood contend that patient care all over Mississippi is in serious trouble because the state is still struggling with tort reform. "Trying to recruit a physician into Mississippi is just totally impossible now," the doctor said.

The Mississippi Hospital Association's solution to that problem is to get health care workers to ballot boxes. On Tuesday, it held voter registration drives at three coast hospitals. The association wants health care workers to support future candidates who support tort reform legislation.

Bill Peaks is the hospital administrator at Garden Park. "It's always good to try to get people mobilized to be involved in who represents us and how we're represented," he said.

Dawn Tohill was one of the health care workers who stopped by Garden Park's voter registration table. "I see many patients who don't get continued health care. And don't have health care," she said, just after she finished filling out her voter registration papers. "I don't want to see our doctors lose coverage. I don't want to see our patients go without coverage."

A tort reform brochure was passed out to anybody who registered to vote. It came from the Mississippi Hospital Association. It explains the hospital association's stance -- that the interests of patients must be put ahead of the interests of lawyers.