Medical Malpractice: Errors Persist In Hospitals Despite Efforts To Improve

Medical malpractice due to errors is unfortunately very common in a world where there is a race to get everything done faster. Hospitals such as Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, have known about it and attempted to tighten scrutiny in spotting errors. The problem hasn’t shown any sign of slowing, though.

Thanks in part to the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law, more patients are flooding hospitals, and heavily populated areas are making preventable mistakes as a result. These are more than just miscalculated numbers or horribly scrawled words from medical professionals in a hurry. Sometimes a patient is given the wrong diagnosis and potentially given a medication which actually makes their health or condition worse.

The biggest potential for medical malpractice errors at Baystate appears to be due to unsanitary conditions, states the Boston Globe. Often enough, dialysis units are placed too close together and the risk of blood splattering on other patients rises. The disease is carried in the blood, and if a rogue drop finds its way into an open wound, a patient could actually leave the hospital with more problems than they arrived with.

In Massachusetts alone, errors rose 60 percent, and they were all preventable. In 2015, 26 patients were reported to have been given the wrong surgery or procedure. Fifty-two errors were discovered in medications which seriously injured or killed patients, and 446 cases involved drugs and devices which had been contaminated.

Massachusetts area hospitals had reported 1,313 different errors last year, and the number only seems to be rising.

This year, 575 patients were notified that they might have been potentially exposed to infection in the Baystate Medical Center, at the request of state health inspectors. During a spot visit, inspectors found crowded conditions in the dialysis treatment unit. According to Dr. Douglas Salvador, vice president of medical affairs, no patients were known to have contracted Hepatitis B or C as a result of these medical malpractice conditions.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

In January, an inspection revealed dialysis units being unsanitary, having not been given proper infection control protocol. They had also been known to admit more than the limit of eight patients at a time, which would have given them the proper distance to avoid cross-infection. Machines used for patients already diagnosed with Hepatitis B were not kept separate from the rest. The potential for medical malpractice lawsuits has been massive just this year.

Salvador has stated that steps have been taken to cut down on potential issues, though nurses aren’t always following the given protocols.

“There are people who come in through the emergency department and need dialysis services, and the desire is to do one more and try to get them done. There were a lot of good intentions.”

Medical malpractice might have gone down as well, as reports have increased. If nobody knows there is a problem, it has a tendency to get worse, but awareness means someone is keeping track.

The Betsy Lehman Center’s executive director Barbara Fain has stated that there might not be enough data reported to truly analyze problems.

“That leaves out many other settings where we know serious medical errors take place, like doctors’ offices and nursing homes. Without more complete data it’s simply not possible to determine trends.”

A lot appears to still be wrong with the infection prevention protocols, and any hospital in a highly populated area could mirror the problems found at the Baystate Medical Center. If the nurses appear to be in a hurry, it might be worth it to find another facility and avoid medical malpractice.

[Image via sfam_photo/]