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Resource ID: #20712
Subject: Public Institutions
Source: Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)
Affiliation: 
Date: various throughout year

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Description

Times-Dispatch reporter Bill McKelway was finally able to penetrate the secretive Virginia Birth-related Neurological Injury Program, after years of trying to shed light on one of the most secret institutions in the state. The program was created to help pay compensation for children who suffered brain damage during birth at the hands of doctors and nurses that was "so severe that they never will be able to care for themselves." By paying out claims in secret, the intention was to keep malpractice lawsuits to a minimum and thus malpractice insurance low. But the institution was so secretive that even families involved in the program had no knowledge of each other, and the program claimed for years it was exempt from all open-records and open-meetings laws. However, McKelway was able to slowly gain information on the system, and he wrote dozens of stories on it in 2003 . The resulting reports by the Times-Dispatch revealed a program that was "woefully underfunded, failing to slow the increases in malpractice insurance, as it was designed to do, inconsistent in its application, and aimed at protecting doctors and hospitals more than helping brain-injured babies." In the wake of the reporting, the program's board meetings were made public for the first time in 15 years, and the institution is now subject to Virginia's freedom of information act.

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