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Texas doctors may be less likely to treat NM patients

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Texas doctors may be reluctant to treat patients from New Mexico if a court ruling is allowed to stand, says the head of the New Mexico Medical Society.

The state District Court in Albuquerque ruled that New Mexico law applies to malpractice cases, despite the procedures in question taking place in Texas, said Randy Marshall, executive director of the medical society.

“The Texas physicians have liability insurance that covers them in Texas but not in New Mexico,” he said.

He said the case is before the state Supreme Court, but until a ruling is issued, Texas doctors may be less likely to see New Mexico patients.

“Their concern is, ‘Where would I be if I had a bad result?’ ‘Where would my case be tried?'” Marshall said. “And in New Mexico, you have no liability coverage. So they just don’t want to take on that type of exposure for their practice.”

Dr. Joehassin Cordero, a member of the Lubbock Medical Society, said most Texas doctors he’s spoken to about the situation haven’t been turning patients away, but they are taking measures to protect themselves.

“I know after some of our society meetings, a lot have been adding specific quotes to their office forms where (patients) have to sign (stating) anything that happens here is under Texas law,” Cordero said. “Hopefully that will protect them, but that’s a small measure. I don’t know of any physician that won’t see anyone from New Mexico, which is great.”

If doctors in Texas, or surrounding states, do choose to turn away patients, the consequences could be overwhelming for hospitals in New Mexico, particularly Albuquerque, Marshall said.

“We do not have all the specialty services in all of our communities,” Marshall said. “If you need transplants or whatever, often those are not going to be done in many of the communities that are affected. They’d have to come to Albuquerque, which is not a convenient place for those patients.”

Albuquerque isn’t equipped to handle the potential onslaught of additional patients either, Cordero said, noting that, on occasion, he will see patients from Albuquerque due to the lack of manpower or beds in Albuquerque hospitals.

Marshall said in hopes of getting the court decision overturned, the New Mexico Medical Society has teamed with other medical associations to file a brief stating  opposition, noting that many New Mexicans travel to Texas and surrounding states for care they cannot receive in New Mexico.