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Florida patient safety a medical malpractice concern in hospitals

In Florida hospitals, medical malpractice continues to be an area of grave concern. An April report in Health Affairs medical journal claimed that one of every three U.S. hospital admissions results in injuries requiring further medical care. Mistakes include failure to appropriately supervise a patient, medication errors and leaving foreign objects in a person after a surgery. A total of 168 people died in Florida hospitals in 2010 and another 368 were victims of serious errors.

Admission to a hospital is traumatic enough in many instances. People enter hospitals to cure medical problems. Sadly, some of them are injured by the very people they turn to for help.

About 12 years ago, a landmark study found that approximately 98,000 people annually were dying from medical mistakes; more than all who died from motor vehicle accidents, AIDS and breast cancer combined.

Some say, in the intervening 12 years, there has not been any real improvement in patient safety. While there is some indication Florida deaths from hospitals medical care (as opposed to patient condition) have declined in the past five years, other areas have shown scant change.

In 2010, medical procedures causing brain or spinal injuries (45) remained constant. Incorrect medical procedures, including operating on the wrong body part, also remained steady. Equally, the number of patients needing additional surgery to correct hospital mistakes such as, leaving a foreign object in the body, remained at about the same level as five years ago.

Much like an airplane flight crew reviewing checklist items before take-off, hospital surgery teams call a "time-out" to confirm they are performing the correct surgery on the correct patient. They also count out loud the number of sponges and tools to ensure nothing gets left inside the patient. Yet problems remain. Florida tracks only the most serious mistakes, and many believe the numbers are skewed by not including all mistakes discovered.

These hospital shortcomings led the Obama administration to announce in April a $1 billion national effort to improve patient safety. Nevertheless, personal injury law mandates that those injured due to the negligence of another are entitled to monetary awards for their injuries, lost wages and pain and suffering. An attorney experienced in hospital medical malpractice may offer some solace and support to those seeking accountability for hospital errors.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Efforts to improve patient safety not enough, critics say," Sally Kestin, July 31, 2011

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