Given all the headlines about the number of medical mistakes injuring patients around the world, it would seem like hospitals would be motivated to cut down on those injuries. However, at clinics, hospitals, and doctors offices across the country, the reports of medical mistakes appear to be increasing. According to a recent report, preventable medical errors in Massachusetts grew by 60 percent last year.
Full-service hospitals in Massachusetts reported over 1,300 preventable medical errors that resulted in harm or threatened patient health in 2015. According to an article in the Boston Globe, the reported errors included incidents where a patient received the wrong procedure or surgery, and more than 50 cases where a mistake about medication seriously injured or killed a patient. There were 36 reported cases of foreign objects left in the body after a medical procedure.
In 2014, Massachusetts hospitals reported only 37 errors involving contaminated drugs, devices, or biologics. However, in 2015, that number jumped to 446 reported cases involving possible contamination. The majority of those cases involved a single hospital's dialysis unit. The Baystate Medical Center in Springfield Massachusetts contacted over 500 patients to warn them that they may have been exposed to infections.
Dialysis involves removing waste, salt and extra water from the blood to prevent build-up in the body. It also helps control blood pressure and maintains safe levels of electrolytes in the blood.
State inspectors found unsanitary and crowded conditions in the dialysis unit, requiring the notification to patients. Hospital staff did not properly follow infection protocol. They did not designate a machine for patients with hepatitis B and failed to properly clean those machines before use on uninfected patients.
Baystate also crowded patients into the dialysis unit, exceeding the limit of eight dialysis patients per shift. Instead, the hospital brought in portable machines to increase the number of patients served in a limited area, which reportedly increases the risk of blood contamination.
The vice president of medical affairs at Baystate, Dr. Douglas Salvador said no patients had yet contracted hepatitis as a result of contamination. Salvador claimed the machines were being properly cleaned between uses, but the nurses were not documenting the disinfection. Salvador also claimed that overcrowding patients were due to the hospitals “good intentions.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, releasing the annual reports of hospital errors are meant to encourage hospitals to make improvements and reduce medical mistakes. Patient care advocates suggest that errors could be on the rise because of the focus on serving more patients in a shorter amount of time. Alternatively, the numbers could appear higher because hospitals are getting better at properly monitoring and reporting medical errors.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of medical error, the Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys here to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.