With all the bad press they have received lately, one might expect hospitals in Massachusetts to start making patients' health their number 1 priority. But the reality is disappointing, to say the least. In light of recent reports on Baystate Medical Center’s unsanitary dialysis unit, it appears that the quality of care in Massachusetts hospitals has slipped considerably. Which might be because the state's hospitals are still concerned with the number 1 thing: money.
It’s no secret that pressure is mounting in healthcare. As the market rapidly evolves, competition is increasing, costs are rising, and payments from private and federal insurers are diminishing. But while some hospitals have suffered heavy losses – which comes as no surprise – others’ profit margins have remained stable. What seems unfathomable is that, for the rest, business has never been better.
Patients Are Injured… While Hospitals Profit
The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) just revealed that, despite these critical market challenges, 80 percent of the 65 hospitals in Massachusetts generated substantial returns in 2015. Among these were Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s, which took in $201.1 Million and $60.8 Million in net income, respectively.
But guess which other establishment benefited from healthier business last year? Baystate Medical Center. The same hospital that recently informed over 500 of their patients that they could be exposed to infection. Doesn't it seem unethical that 1 of the least safe hospitals in the state is profiting from its errors? In fact, the facility raked in a net income of $76.8 Million.
Unfortunately, this hospital isn’t the only 1 to wrong hundreds of patients with substandard care. Many other healthcare institutions across the U.S. neglect the health of thousands more vulnerable people. Medical errors have become the third leading cause of death, and the number of errors reported has risen from 366 in 2011 to 1,313 in 2015. The question is: to what extent will medical mistakes continue to spiral out of control?
What Kinds of Errors Should We Be Worried about?
The Department of Public Health (DOH) in Massachusetts, which annually releases reports on preventable medical errors, has made things pretty plain: 33 percent of all patients are harmed during hospitalization nationwide. But, in fact, this outrageous figure doesn’t even take into account errors that happen under the radar, outside of a hospital setting.
If only some of these errors were as far-fetched as they sound. Reported cases of malpractice have ranged from leaving instruments inside patients, to contaminated drugs and physical abuse.
According to the Boston Globe, there is a seemingly unlimited amount of occurrences happening in our acute care hospitals that lead to serious injury or death – including falls, burns, and medication errors. Perhaps the most troubling, though, is the number of injuries inflicted on newborn babies, which were found in 15 cases last year. Sadly, many serious conditions like cerebral palsy are the result of birth injuries that could have been avoided, had these horrific mistakes not been made.
When Will Hospitals Take This Seriously?
It’s evident that the epidemic of medical errors has no correlation with healthcare’s economy. Hospitals continue to see patients as cash-generating opportunities instead of fellow human beings with rights.
Of course, many instances of malpractice are still denied, ignored, or lessened. Some healthcare officials claim that steps are being taken to turn the situation on its head – or, at least, it’s the thought that counts. When questioned about Baystate Medical Center’s dialysis facilities, Dr. Douglas Salvador, Vice President of Medical Affairs, stated: “There are people who come in through the emergency department and need dialysis services, and the desire is to do one more and try to get them done. There were a lot of good intentions.’’
But so-called “good intentions” aren’t going to give U.S. citizens the quality of care to which they’re entitled. The sole solution is justice. It’s only a matter of time before more medical malpractice lawsuits are brought against Baystate Medical Center – as has happened with Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, in the past. At the very least, justice will divert hospitals’ obscene cash flow back into the hands of the people who brought them money in the first place.