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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Justices To Weigh Case Involving Escaped Patient

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University of Florida Health
UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital.

The Florida Supreme Court said Friday it will take up a case stemming from the death of a woman who was killed on Interstate 75 after escaping from a psychiatric hospital.

The court issued an order agreeing to consider the case, though the order indicated justices will not hear oral arguments.

The lawsuit was filed by the estate of Ashley Lawson against Shands Vista, a psychiatric hospital affiliated with Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. Lawson, a patient, escaped from the hospital after taking an employee's keys and badge and was hit by a truck after going onto Interstate 75 in Alachua County, according to court documents and news reports.

The woman's estate filed a negligence suit, but the hospital argued that the case should be handled as an allegation of medical malpractice.

The hospital's position would lead to dismissal of the lawsuit because the estate had not given a pre-suit notice that is required in medical-malpractice cases. The 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the hospital's argument, prompting the estate to seek a Supreme Court ruling that the case is about negligence instead of medical malpractice.