Posted by Bill Sandweg on 22 March 2021.
As anyone who observes our health care delivery system in action knows, hospitals are hotbeds of medical errors. It is not all their fault but it is a fact. There are so many people participating in patient care. There are so many medications being ordered and delivered. There is so much communication between providers, which can lead to misunderstandings. As the old proverb states, “To err is human.” We are all humans and we all make mistakes. However, rather than admit their mistakes, hospitals actively hide them.
It is easy to understand why hospitals want to hide evidence of their many mistakes. Among the reasons are fear of being sued, reputation concerns, licensure problems and potential staff problems. Hospitals like to claim that the public would not understand error reports and might conclude a hospital was careless when nothing could be further from the truth. However, regardless of how much it might benefit a hospital to hide its mistakes, the act of hiding them is deeply unfair to the public and increases the likelihood that these mistakes will be made again and again.
As a condition of participating in the Medicare system, hospitals are required to track and report adverse patient events. These are events in the care process which cause patient harm. Almost half the states require similar reporting of adverse events. Arizona is not one of them. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have found that, even though required to report adverse patient events, hospitals routinely underreport them. Even when reports are made, they are kept hidden from the public. The bottom line is that the public, which should be able to know about mistakes and demand improvement, is kept in the dark. Nothing to see here folks.
My practice involves representing people injured by medical negligence. Often that medical negligence occurs in a hospital. It is extremely rare that a hospital will admit that the negligence of one of its employees caused the injury suffered by my client. Instead, the hospital will deny any responsibility, even when they have investigated the event and concluded in an internal report that employees made a medical mistake and caused the injury.
The key words here are “internal report.” I never get to see this report, even though it relates to the exact event at issue. No one in the public ever gets to see it. I don’t even get to see the statements given by the hospital employees explaining how the event occurred. The law allows the hospital to deny fault, even when it has already concluded exactly the opposite. The law allows the hospital employees to tell me a different story about the event than they told the hospital investigators.
Bad things happen to patients on a regular basis in even the best hospitals in Arizona. Judging from the information available to the public, you would never know it. This is wrong and we should demand better from our hospitals.