Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Hospital Staffing May Impact Maternal Complications and Birth Injuries

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Mar 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

The rates of maternal injuries and fatalities have decreased in recent years among countries with modernized healthcare systems. The U.S. is an exception to this trend. Across the country, there are now roughly 50,000 maternal injuries and 700 fatalities each year. The only state that has experienced a reduction has been California. A recent USA today asserts that the majority of the adverse outcomes are preventable. Often the problem is a failure to respond to the signs of problems.

Risk Analysis Study Shows Other Factors

A recently published report by Risk Analysis indicated that these outcomes may be influenced by the timing of the delivery. This research surveyed approximately 2 million births over a five-year span. It tracked complications such as a ruptured uterus, a sudden need for a hysterectomy, and other reasons that might require admission to intensive care. Their findings showed some clear risk factors that were closely related to hospital staffing. They believe that the time of day, the day of the week, and other similar factors are influencing safety based on the quality of the medical staff on duty.

Staff-Related Factors

  • The risk for complications rose by 21% among deliveries during the night shift compared to a daytime shift.
  • This risk of complication was 9% greater on weekends and a staggering 29% higher on holidays. The assumption here is that those working during these nonstandard and often less desirable shifts may be those with less seniority and experience.
  • In teaching hospitals, the risk of complications rose 28% during the month of July. This coincides with the time when training begins for residents.

The study did control for factors such as the age of the mother, race, level of education, and other key risk factors. David Mushinski, of the Department of Economics at Colorado State University, agrees to an extent that birth complications that occur in hospital settings can be influenced by staff and schedules. He suggests that during the more traditional working hours the facility is more likely to be properly staffed and have more experienced professionals on duty.

Hospital Outlook

The report showed that “occupational performance” also declined among staff members as their work shift progressed. This pattern occurred as each additional hour passed during a shift. Teaching hospitals were negatively influenced when the inexperienced residents were providing care. Results indicated that strategic scheduling systems should be considered by hospital administrators.

Maternal Complications and Birth Injuries

It is unlikely that maternal complications or birth injuries could be directly attributed to hospital staffing patterns for cases of medical malpractice. These cases must prove a direct correlation between negligent actions (or inactions) and patient injuries. These types of medical malpractice cases are among the most challenging to prove. For a plaintiff to prevail in a malpractice case that is associated with childbirth, often they will encounter a formidable defense.

Choosing an Attorney for Birth-Related Malpractice Claims

Often the insurance company and their legal team will spare no expense in defending these cases that often can involve potentially large awards for damages. The defense may use several expert witnesses to contradict a malpractice claim. Some attorneys and small firms may be reluctant to follow through on these cases because they often become very costly to continue. It is critical that those seeking to pursue these claims choose an attorney that has sufficient capital to sustain the case over a multi-year period.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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