Here's another great guest bog by one of our attorneys here at Cruise Law, Charles Gourlis, who takes a look at cruise line medical care for ship employees:
Not all cruise lines are made equal. Some provide adequate medical treatment to their injured crew members, but there are several cruise lines that just won’t get “on board” (pun intended).
I try to live up to the saying, “Don’t Just Complain, Do Something About It!” So, in that spirit, I have a few recommendations for our friends at the cruise lines. My recommendations:
1. Invest in Quality Shipboard Physicians
Most shipboard doctors either were not qualified to attend medical school in the U.S. and are not licensed in the U.S. Most cruise lines hire non-U.S. doctors because it’s cheaper than hiring U.S. doctors. If shipowners paid their doctors salaries that were competitive with U.S. salaries, they would attract better-trained physicians. The quality of care would improve, diagnoses would become more accurate, and more serious injuries & illnesses would be prevented.
2. Bring Your Crew Members to Miami for Treatment
Most injured crew members are repatriated to their home country to receive medical treatment from doctors in their home country. This presents the same problem as problem number one. By bringing ill or injured crew to Miami for immediate treatment, all examinations, tests, and doctor’s visits are conducted by U.S. physicians here in Miami. Again, the quality of care would improve, the amount of care needed would decrease as American physicians more precisely diagnose conditions and deliver timely treatment, the need for drawn-out care would decrease.
3. Pay Your Crew Members, Not Your Defense Lawyers
As I outlined in my first guest bog post, most crew members sue only after the cruise line stops paying maintenance & cure and the crew member becomes destitute. The cruise line could prevent problems by coordinating with its local agents to ensure that all injured crew members receive maintenance payments on a timely basis every month and are promptly scheduled for medical appointments. As a result, thousands of crew members don’t languish at home while the defense lawyers for the cruise line earn their holiday bonus defending the cruise line.
Following these recommendations, the cruise lines could actually save the cruise line millions of dollars a year in needless medical and legal expenses. If the human factor wan’t a compelling enough reason to change the business practices, dozen’t saving money make a strong business case for pro-active medical treatment?
November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.
Photo credit: Pullmantur.es