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Malpractice claims against federally qualified health centers

Federal funding of a healthcare clinic affects the amount of time to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. In New York, there are more than 100 health centers that receive federal funds. Claims against the appropriate federal agency, not the clinic or the doctor, must be brought within two years.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services maintains a directory that lists community-based federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). In New York City, a few include Betances Health Center, the New York and Presbyterian Hospital and the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. These clinics receive federal funding to provide services from primary care to maternal and child health care.

 

Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)

Health centers that qualify as FQHC receive protection under the FTCA. Employees are immune from personal liability for medical malpractice that occurs in the course of employment duties at the health center. In addition, a suit is handled in U.S. District Court and the United States becomes the named defendant.

Some additional requirements of FTCA litigation include:

  • Filing a claim with the appropriate agency
  • Stating the claim in a way that allows the agency to investigate and attempt to resolve the matter
  • Waiting at least six months for the agency to act before filing a federal lawsuit

A claim must be filed within two years of the accrual of the claim. 

Because the name alone of a clinic or hospital does not distinguish a private health provider from a FQHC, this important distinction can be missed. While checking the federal agency database is a start, it may not provide comprehensive and up-to-date information. The only way to confirm whether or not a clinic is a FQHC is to question the facility directly. Identifying the owner of a health care facility is thus an important first step in any medical malpractice claim, because of the shorter statute of limitation.

Failing to ask whether a healthcare clinic is a FQHC may limit your right to seek compensation.

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