HCI3 Update from the Field: Why Aren’t Patients Protected?

Submitted by francois.debrantes@hci3.org on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 01:49

Newtown, CT – July 27, 2012

Why aren't patients protected as well as diners or workers? Across the US, municipalities send out their public health inspectors to ensure that diners are protected from serious harm or injury that can be caused by poor hygiene and other practices. These inspections result in restaurants receiving a grade, alerting the diners of potential health safety hazards. All businesses with more than a handful of employees are equally subject to inspections on workplace safety. And if a worker gets seriously injured or dies, an investigation ensues to discover the root cause and institute process changes to reduce the likelihood it will happen again. Many companies, especially the ones with manufacturing plants, post signs at the entrance of the plant highlighting the total number of work days since the last reported injury, or even publish the statistics on their websites. Every year there are about 3,000 deaths from food poisonings and 4,500 from workplace injuries. And these numbers have been trending down. There are at least TEN TIMES MORE deaths from medical errors. At least, because no one knows for sure….the law of "omerta" doesn't just apply to the mafia. The recent OIG report clearly indicates that hospital-based patient safety failures are massively underreported, even in states where there's "mandatory" reporting.

What this means to you – a patient walks down the hall of a hospital and slips and falls on a wet floor, which results in a very serious concussion and loss of function. The result: a higher hospital bill for the health plan to pay, disability payments for the employer to bear, and lasting harm for the patient and family to live with. An hour later, a hospitalist making her rounds has the same accident with the same outcome. The result: a workplace injury inspection, root cause analysis, and process changes to protect other workers from the same potential harm. It makes no sense that patients in a hospital or any other healthcare facility receive less protection against injury, dismemberment or death than the workers in that same facility; or that patients have less information about the safety rating of a hospital than of their local restaurant. If public health officials can inspect and rate restaurants, why can't they inspect and rate hospitals? If the Department of Labor can send OSHA inspectors to investigate a workplace injury or death in a hospital, why can't HHS send an equivalent task force to investigate a patient's accidental death in a hospital? Why do we tolerate this double standard? If you care about your loved ones you won't. History shows us that the code of silence is broken when enough good people stand up for what's right and just. How many more injuries, deaths and dismemberments do we need before we all stand up? 


Francois de Brantes
Executive Director
Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Inc.
w: www.hci3.org