Hospital Horrors

Another excellent story in the Seattle PI sheds some light on the state of our nation’s hospitals. The article is full of frightening statistics about medical errors and preventable deaths. I used to think hospitals must be among the safest places to be, but now I am not so sure.

Before I scare you with some figures, here’s another scary thing: you would think that something as significant as avoidable hospital deaths would be meticulously tracked, but no, there hasn’t been any sort of overall study. So anyway, some scary numbers for you:

  • Some 98,000 patients die each year from preventable medical errors
  • Another 99,000 patients die each year from hospital-acquired infections, and nearly all of these are also preventable
  • In sum, that’s nearly 200,000 people in this country who die each year from preventable conditions

I guess it makes sense there would be a high degree of error in hospitals. Patients come and go, they are moved around, staff rotates, shift changes occur, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. That said, it is precisely BECAUSE of such chaos that strict organization and set systems are necessary in hospitals. However, it’s looking like conditions are not getting safer and that medical facilities aren’t implementing safety campaigns or procedures, at least not effective ones.

The article discusses a 1999 report called “To Err Is Human” that aimed to increase patient safety. The problem, some of the authors allege, is that the report wasn’t supported sufficiently by the government or other authorities. This lack of leadership meant nothing changed.