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Articles Posted in Hospital Negligence

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The family of a hospital worker is angry and wants to know how such gross hospital negligence may have been committed by the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NYC. Anthony Luso, a worker at the Montefiore Medical Center suffered a finger injury while he was working at the hospital and went to the Emergency Room to be treated on Friday. He checked in and then went to the bathroom. He never got out. He was found dead in the locked bathroom on Monday after his family questioned the hospital and insisted on looking at video surveillance.  Read more on CBS New York

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imageFalls in hospitals can cause serious personal injury and sometimes death. Every year hundreds of thousands of people are falling in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities or other healthcare facilities. 30 to 50% of them will sustain injury. Elderly people are not the only ones at risk. Medical conditions, medication, surgery, medical procedures or diagnostic testings for example can result in weakening and confusion for any patient independently of his or her age and increase the risk of a fall.

According to a recent alert from the Joint Commission, falls in hospitals are a prevalent patient safety problem. Even though it can be difficult and complex to prevent, hospital can take action to prevent them. Here are recommendations suggested by the Joint Commission:

  • Raise awareness about the risk of falls by communicating it to clinical and non clinical staff at every level as well as to patients and their family
  • Establish an interdisciplinary fall prevention team. Reducing falls is the responsibility of everyone including nurses, physicians, environmental services, information technology, patient advocacy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, etc.
  • Use a validated tool to identify the risk of fall in each patient and make it part of his or her electronic medical records
  • Develop a personalized prevention plan for patients at risk
  • Educate patients
  • Conduct post-fall management

For more info on this subject, download the alert  from the Joint Commission

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imageHospital medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in this country, behind heart disease and cancer.

In a recent article in the New York Times, a retired transplant surgeon explains how an unresponsive medical staff left him no other choice but to break into  into the crash cart, a box on wheels containing equipment hospitals use to resuscitate patients and pull out two liters of saline solution which he ran into his daughter’s IV Line to prevent her from dying.

Unfortunately most patients and their families don’t have the medical knowledge and the means to make things different if the staff is negligent or a medical error is being committed. Here are the reactions of some of the readers to this article.


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baby in hospitalTo precribe Proglycem (diazoxide) to a baby with risk factors for pulmonary hypertension can be medical malpractice leading to severe personal injury.  FDA MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program recently released a drug safety communication to warn that 11 cases of pulmonary hypertension in infants and newborns treated with diazoxide, the active ingredient in Proglycem, have been indentified since the drug was launched in 1973. The drug is usually used in hospital setting after the birth of the baby.

Doctors should not prescribe this drug to babies suffering from meconium aspiration syndrome, respiratory distress syndrome, transient tachypnea of the newborn, pneumonia, sepsis, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and congenital heart disease.

Babies with no risk factor for pulmonary hypertension should be closely monitored as well. Parents and caregivers should look for signs of difficulty breathing such as flaring nostrils, grunting, unusual movement of their child’s chest, rapid breathing, difficulty feeding, or a bluish color of the lips. They should stop the medication and contact their doctor immediately if they see any of these signs.

Read more in the FDA Safety Alert

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Montefiore_Medical_Center_logoMore than 12,500 patients of a New York Hospital had their financial records compromised after an assistant clerk sold them for $3 a piece to a ringleader who made purchases at various high end retailers in Manhattan. Between January and June 2013 32 year old Monique Walker who worked in the financial department of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx sold information such as names of patients, social security numbers, credit card numbers and birth dates to 28 year old Fernando Salazar who was sending his “buyers” Patricia Charles, 43, Lawrence Davenport-Brown, 23 and Charde Lawrence, 28, of Staten Island, Ashly Garrett, 25, of Queens, Sasha Rivera, 31, of Brooklyn, and Crystal White, 32 to shop at various high end venues in Manhattan. They all face charges including grand larceny, possession of a forged instrument, identity theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information and related counts. Read more in the NY Daily News 

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ambulancesHospital negligence can sometimes also happen outside of the hospital when a healthcare facility doesn’t proprely mitigate the risk of vehicular theft in front of its entrance. In a recent blog post, the Joint Commission is warning about reports of patients and other individuals who have been stealing ambulances, delivery vans, police cruisers snow plows and private cars that were left unoccupied and running in front of hospital entrances. According to the Joint Commission the risk is especially high for hospitals and healthcare facilities with a very active emergency department. Thieves are often patients who either are at the hospital under the supervision of a law enforcement agency, have substance abuse problems or mental health issues. Individuals with no links to the hospital or the patients have also been reported stealing unattended vehicles at hospital entrances. These types of incidents are extremely dangerous not only for the medical staff which can be injured when trying to stop the suspect or can be unwittingly kidnapped during the vehicle theft but also for pedestrians and road users who could be struck by a suspect attempting to flee.

The Joint Commission recommends that hospitals work with ambulance services, authorities as well as vendors and suppliers to make sure their vehicles are secured when left unattended in front of hospitals.  Valet parking staff should receive specific training and security personnel should monitor locations where vehicles stop near entrances and exits. Signage reminding drivers to remove their keys from the ignition when their vehicles are unattended can also help mitigating the risk of vehicular theft.

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Pigment_stone_extractionAfter two patients died and many other suffered personal injury from a recent “superbug”outbreak involving duodenoscopes, the safety of these medical devices (see previous blog) and the method used by hospitals to reprocess them are being questioned. In a recent Hazard Report, the ECRI Institute is recommending culturing Duodenoscopes as a key step to reducing carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).  The Institute believes that duodenoscope procedures are vital when treating and diagnosing conditions of the gall bladder and pancreas with Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedures and the risk of infection can be mitigated if hospitals upgrade their reprocessing methods by also scope culturing.The Institute recommemds that hospitals not only check with the duodenoscope manufacturer as to whether they are using the appropriate reprocessing method but also add a baseline culture of all duodenoscpoes.  Read the complete ECRI High Priority Hazard Report 
Picture Duodenoscopy image of two pigment stones extracted from common bile duct courtesy of Wikipedia

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Sharing diabetes pens among patients is a gross medical malpractice that can lead to transmission of infections and viruses such as HIV and hepatitis viruses.  According to the FDA, since 2008 thousands of patients may have been exposed  to blood-borne pathogens from the sharing of multi-dose pen devices for insulin and other injectable diabetes medicines. In 2009 the FDA was informed that 2,114 patients  from a U.S. army facility had been injected with pens that had been used on other patients. Then in 2011, 2,345 patients from the Dean Clinic in Wisconsin were notified that pen and needles had been shared among patients. More recently in 2013, 716 patients from the Veteran Health Administration were notified of potential exposure to infections through the sharing of diabetes pen. Last March in New York, the South Nassau Community Hospital in Long Island contacted 4000 patients to be screened for HIV and Hepatitis after a nurse said she was using the same insulin pen for multiple patients (see previous blog).

Insulin pens and pens for other injectable diabetes medicines should never be shared among patients, even if the needle is changed. To promote safe use, the FDA is requiring that pens and packaging containing multiple doses of insulin and other injectable diabetes medicines display a warning label stating “For single patient use only.” Read the safety announcement from the FDA


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Since 2009, the FDA has been aware that duodenoscopes manufactured by Japanese companies Olympus, Pentax and Fujifilm have been at the origin of the spread of sometimes fatal spread of pathogens but did nothing to change the situation. Hospitals that faced such outbreaks began sterilizing the devices more rigorously and the transmission of dangerous disease stopped. Therefore, the suspicion was that the superbug outbreak happened because of medical malpractice during which the hospital staff didn’t respect the sterilization procedure. However for the first time on Thursday the FDA said that even hospitals that fully respected the sterilization process could have their devices infected by the superbug. However the FDA didn’t propose to improve the sterilization procedures. They only issued a “safety communication” warning healthcare providers that duodenoscopes’ “complex design” may impede effective sterilization.  The problematic part is a movable “elevator” mechanism at the tip of the duodenoscope: Its moving parts have microscopic crevices where bodily fluids can remain after standard cleaning.  The FDA and the manufacturers are aware of this deadly manufacturing flaw but the FDA didn’t require the manufacturers to improve their device either. Read more on Reuters

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Reports of  medical staff suffering personal injury after being attacked by patients or patient’s visitors are on the rise.  Recent cases of extreme violence such as one involving a 68 year old patient attacking nurses with a metallic bar that he pulled from a bed (see video) or the death of a prominent cardiologist at a Boston Hospital who was shot by a gunman last month have led hospitals to revisit their security policy.

Shootings in hospitals are not that common but violence against hospital staff is happening daily. Workers are being kicked, scratched, punched beaten and even sexually assaulted by patients. Emergency room and psychiatric nurses and other workers dealing with elderly patients are the most at risk of being assaulted and injured by a patient. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics hospital workers are five time more likely to be assaulted on their jobs than workers in other industries.  Last year a study entitled “Incidence and Cost of Nurse Workplace Violence Perpetrated by Hospital Patients or Patient Visitors” and published by  the Journal of Emergency Nursing indicates that in the last year 76% of nurses experienced violence  (verbal abuse by patients, 54.2%; physical abuse by patients, 29.9%; verbal abuse by visitors, 32.9%; and physical abuse by visitors, 3.5%). Perpetrators were primarily white male patients, aged 26 to 35 years, who were confused or influenced by alcohol or drugs.

Hospitals have started to initiate various programs to train their staff on how to recognize and deescalate potentially violent situations but too little is being done to stop the assaults. According to a recent article, Epidemic of Violence against Health Care Workers Plagues Hospitals  published in Scientific American,  hospital administrators and the judicial system do little to prevent assaults by patients. The cost of violence prevention is small, however, when compared to the amount that hospitals lose in worker-compensation claims every year and in time off due to injury—roughly a third of which is patient-inflicted, according to OSHA statistics.