I read a really scary article in Live Science that is hardly comforting to people with chronic illness. I mean really scary, at least to me. Every time I’ve been rushed to the hospital I’ve felt safer the minute I was triaged into the noisy, flourescent, bustling emergency room. So many people watching you, sticking you, taking your body fluids and analyzing them. They’re not gonna let you die, right?
Wrong. I mean, we’ve all heard that hospitals screw up sometimes, but this article put it all together into one punch in the stomach whole.
The article How Hospitals Can Turn Deadly by Robert Roy Britt
mentions, in part, the following:
Superbugs – staph infections which apparently thrive in hospitals, increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and according to the CDC responsible for 99,000 deaths in 2002. If you’re young, not to worry. Most younger people survive such infections, its the elderly who die. People like your grandparents.
Noise – causes staff stress and more errors.
Exhaustion – overworked residents and other staff are sleep deprived. A study showed that they were three times more likely to report a fatigue related “significant medical error.” I have always wondered about that when I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Not to mention all the doctors missing in action in the on call rooms. (Those scenes are accurately depicted, by the way. I used to be married to a medical resident.)
Bad timing- Whatever you do, don’t have an emergency during off hours or on the weekend. You’re more likely to wait longer for help and at a higher risk of death. This is cited in a JAMA published study on heart attack victims.
Really scary, but along the same lines, the article statees that “babies born at night are at least 12 percent more likely to die within 28 days, according to a different 2005 study. The reasons are thought to include fatigue and inattention related to shift changes.”
Really getting burned- This one freaked me out, I’d never heard of such a thing. Apparently, in Pennsylvania, “every year about 28 patients are burned during surgery by fires, such as when oxygen inside a mask ignited. Extrapolated nationwide, the data suggests 550 to 650 surgical burns occur nationwide each year, including one or two deaths, according to a recentMSNBC analysis. Cathy Lake, the daughter of a surgical burn victim, createdwww.surgicalfire.org to highlight the problem.”
Medication mistakes- A 2006 study found that medication mistakes injure more than 1.5 million Americans every year.
In all fairness none of these things has ever happened to me, and I’m a frequent flier to hospital staff in the various states I have called home. But in all fairness, shouldn’t hospitals be more closely monitored for careless mistakes?? Research and exposure to the pubic about these things is one thing. But how about consequenses? We all know that in medicine, like anything other business, money is the bottom line. How about the government fining hospitals for careless mistakes? I’ll bet you that would decrease those stats.
OK, I’ll give them a break on the resistant staph thing. Who knows? Maybe its extra-terrestial or something.