As the debate over medical liability reform continues, an often forgotten statistic is the number of patients injured or killed by medical malpractice. In New Jersey, for example, a story from the Star-Ledger found that doctors and hospitals in that state committed 9,400 “serious errors” in 2007, which were defined as a medical error leading to “patients developing infections, blood clots and other conditions that threatened their health.”
The article presents findings from a hospital report card from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. The report card shows where mistakes occur, in addition to they types of mistakes made. The New Jersey Health Commissioner hopes that by making the information public, hospitals will improve care, and cases of medical negligence will decline.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to medical error, contact an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney about your case. There are many factors to be considered in a medical error case, such as negligence, and an experienced malpractice attorney has a thorough understanding of what constitutes medical negligence, and the laws and statutes that apply.
Illinois also created a hospital “report card” pursuant to the Illinois Hospital Report Card Act (Public Act 93-0563) (“the Act”). Such reports are meant to provide the public “information about the quality of health care provided in Illinois hospitals in order to make better decisions about their choice of health care provider.” In addition to the hospital report card, Illinois also released reports concerning the Illinois Consumer Guide to Health Care and the Adverse Events report.
Under the Act, hospitals must submit quarterly reports on infection rates and adequacy of hospital nursing staff to the Department of Health. Each year, the Department of Health is to publish a summary of the quarterly reports.
Although the Act was passed in 2004, to date no hospital report cards have been published. Indeed, none of the three reports listed above have been published.
According to reports this summer from the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Hospital Association plans to launch a site this month that will publish the Hospital Report Card, along with the Consumer Guide to Health Care and the Adverse Events report. We will see about that — these reports are long overdue.
It is likely that the medical associations are delaying the release of these reports for at least two political reasons: (1) the Illinois Supreme Court is considering whether caps on “non-economic” damages (i.e. pain and suffering, loss of normal life, etc.) in medical malpractice lawsuits is constitutional; and (2) the federal health care reform debate still includes the possibility of medical malpractice reform as part of a final package.
Should these Illinois reports come out “too soon”, and shed light on the frequency and severity of medical negligence in Illinois, the reports could sway public opinion away from the tort reformists.
Nevertheless, as the country continues to call for health care reform, enforcing the Illinois Hospital Report Card Act will be important. The public has a right to know whether or not its hospitals are providing quality care.
For a free consultation with one of Passen & Powell’s Chicago medical malpractice and injury lawyers, call us at (312) 527-4500.