In Massachusetts, state health officials issued data saying that preventable medical errors reported by full-service Massachusetts hospitals leapt 60 percent in the last year. As if that leap in preventable death and injury wasn’t enough, state officials went on to say that the jump in the numbers was attributable in large part to the problematic performance of 1, single hospital. And the bigger problem with that? That particular hospital—the Bay State Medical Center — serves a large portion of the state.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DOH) announced that state hospitals disclosed a total of 1,313 medical errors that either harmed or threatened patients from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. This figure, as reported by The Boston Globe, included a total of 38 medical mistakes made by hospitals where the wrong kind of surgery or procedure was performed on a patient, or the wrong site on a patient was operated on.
Yes, you read that correctly: In 38 separate instances, the wrong surgery was performed on Massachusetts state patients. Unfortunately, this number — 38 — is only the start.
The Numbers Tell the True Story of Hospital and Doctor Negligence
According to the report by The Boston Globe, not only were there 38 wrong surgeries or procedures reported, there were also 51 cases of a doctor or medical professional administering the wrong medication, which led to severe injury in a patient or death.
Moreover, there were 446 reports of improperly administered drugs, devices, or biologics.
Allegedly this last number rose so drastically from 2014 in part because the Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts alerted hundreds of their patients to the possibility that they were exposed to an infection. The type of infection, however, was not specified, though 1 patient has since tested positive for a serious infectious disease. Instead, the warning was issued after state health inspectors visited the Springfield facility and found an inpatient dialysis unit that was severely overcrowded and overall unsanitary. As such, the state counted each 1 of these patients as having experienced a “serious, reportable event.”
How Hospitals Are Neglecting Patients
The numbers don’t lie. And, given that, one can infer that the U.S.’s medical-error problem certainly isn’t getting any better. That fact should be incredibly worrying, given that citizens rely on good and safe medical practice to help them get better. Where do people turn to when they are sick and/or injured and need help? When they are at their most vulnerable? Families and hospitals. And if the people can’t trust their hospitals to take care of them, well, then what options do sick and injured patients have?
The Globe reports that the top causes of medical errors in hospitals were as follows:
- Contaminated drugs, devices, or biologics (446)
- Serious injury or death after a fall (317)
- Serious pressure ulcer (226)
- Serious injury or death from a medication error (51)
- Unintended leaving of a foreign object in a patient (36)
- Suicide or self-harm with serious injury (31)
- Serious injury or death from a burn (30)
- Wrong site surgery or procedure (26)
- Physical assault or abuse that led to serious injury (20)
- Newborns experiencing serious injury or death during delivery process (15)
- Wrong surgery or procedure (12)
- Misuse of device or device malfunction (12)
MA DOH Announcement Comes on the Heels of Dismal 2016 Report
Unfortunately, while some might be able to chalk up the report as the result of that one hospital in Springfield having been charged multiple times for the same, general offense, what these new numbers highlight is the epidemic of medical malpractice that is occurring right now in hospitals all around the United States.
Earlier this year, in May, it was reported by BMJ that, according to their analysis, medical errors made by doctors, prescribers, hospitals, and other medical professionals and facilities had, in fact, risen to the point where it could now be considered the third-leading cause of death in the United States. As such, medical errors could now, conceivably, supplant car crashes, strokes, and gun-related death.
With the new data out of Massachusetts at least in some respect affirming what reports from earlier in the year stated, that medical mistakes are becoming a true epidemic, patients and their families have every right to be outraged. And those who have suffered or been injured can and should seek justice through the court system; only then, can hospitals be held accountable, and only then, can real change be made to a system corrupt with power, money, and secrecy.