Medical errors occur all too often — and with devastating consequences for patients and their families. Indeed, as recently reported by the Chicago Tribune, if the current national rates of medical malpractice apply here in Chicago, then every day in Chicago-area hospitals medical errors claim the lives of ten patients and injure one hundred others.
Take, for example, hospital-acquired infections as a result of medical care, generally from catheters or IV lines. As our top medical malpractice attorneys have previously written, these infections are generally not only preventable, but easily preventable. Studies have shown that such simple, common-sense measures as routine handwashing and proper sterilization would effectively eliminate such infections. Yet they continue to occur at alarming rates at hospitals and medical centers across the country, leading to serious illness and death.
Likewise, bedsores (otherwise known as decubitous ulcers) are a completely preventable medical complication. Bedsores are an extremely painful complication caused when a patient is left for far too long in one position. Just as it sounds, this complication can be easily prevented by the simple expedient of regularly repositioning those patients who are immobile.
A third common medical complication, post-operative sepsis (a bacterial infection), is not quite as easy to prevent, but can be effectively treated if caught promptly. Like hospital-acquired infections, rates of post-operative sepsis can be greatly reduced by proper sterilization and sanitation practices (such as routine handwashing). But perhaps even more importantly, when post-surgical patients are properly monitored, infections can be identified and treated early, before they have a chance to develop into life-threatening conditions.
The methods of preventing or reducing these problems are so simple, so common-sense, that it would be easy to assume that top Chicago-area hospitals, prominent hospitals with good reputations, have comparatively low rates of these conditions. As our Chicago malpractice attorneys are all too well aware, however, this is not the case.
The recent Tribune article examined rates of complications in eight prominent local hospitals. This information was derived from publicly-available data on whynotthebest.com, a site designed to “motivate” and enable hospitals to provide better care, and was presented to local health care executives. The hospitals the author looked at were:
- The University of Chicago
- The University of Illinois
- Lutheran General (the flagship hospital for the Advocate system)
- Evanston (the flagship hospital for NorthShore University)
- Stroger (Cook County’s public hospital)
The data available was adjusted for the condition of the patient – how sick he was to begin with, and thus how susceptible he would be to additional complications, and severity of those complications. The site also adjusted for statistical significance, meaning that only those hospitals who were demonstrably better or worse than average were reported as such.
For rates of infections caused by medical care, three of these hospitals – Loyola, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois, were all ranked as “significantly worse” than average. Not one of these eight local hospitals ranked significantly better than average in rates of these largely preventable infections.
For rates of bedsores, Loyola was again ranked as significantly worse than average. Indeed, Loyola’s rate of patient bedsores was nearly nine times the average, a shocking rate even to our experienced medical malpractice lawyers. Again, not one of these eight prominent Chicago hospitals ranked above average in this area.
As to the third category, post-operative bacterial sepsis, only the University of Chicago was ranked significantly worse than average. Interestingly, Stroger (a public Cook County hospital) ranked “significantly better” than average in this category.
This data is truly telling. While many of these hospitals are renowned for their innovative and effective care, what these data demonstrate is that, in many cases, they are simply not taking care of their patients. It is, quite simply, of no use to a patient to have her cancer cured through a cutting-edge treatment if she passes away from a preventable IV-borne infection.
We urge each of these hospitals – and others – to examine their patient-care practices, and to truly make patient safety a priority.
For a Free Consultation with a top-rated Chicago serious injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.