Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Heal and Not to Harm

“Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit - Life!”
-- Emily Dickinson

Discounting token visits to family and/or friends, we all go to hospitals or see a doctor for one reason: to get better or to ensure our health and well-being. The rising number of medical malpractices cases though, is enough to make one wary.

Recently, the California Department of Public Health fined 13 hospitals $25,000 for violating health codes that endangered patients.

Hospital violations penalized include the facilities’ failure to follow policies and procedures to ensure safe and effective use of medications, use and maintenance of respiratory equipment and blood transfusion. Three of these hospitals were found to have left foreign objects inside their patients.

Three out of ten hospitals—meaning, if you are scheduled to undergo surgery in any of these hospitals in California, you have a 23% chance of ending up with like say, a glove inside your stomach.

Take for example, St. Jude in Fullerton. According to the state report, although this is the facility’s first administrative penalty, it was fined $25,000 after a plastic drape was left in a patient's body during a July hysterectomy. The patient had to undergo a second surgery for its removal.

University of California Irvine Medical Center on the other hand, was fined $50,000. It committed two violations when the health and safety of a patient was jeopardized when the hospital failed to follow its policies and procedures for fall prevention and when another patient’s safety was compromised when an allegation of physical assault was not investigated timely.

It’s great that the State is exerting a lot of effort in protecting and promoting the health of its residents by keeping an eye on its hospitals but for some victims of medical malpractice, it may not be enough or it may be too late. In some instances, victims of medical malpractice may have no other recourse left but to institute medical malpractice claim. This can be painful and expensive on both ends.

Patients pay to get proper medical attention and literally place their lives and limbs in the hands of their doctors and hospitals. There is a sacred trust and responsibility reposed on medical practitioners and health facilities that must provide quality patient care. A single act of negligence on the part of these health professionals carry a devastating effect in the lives of so many people.