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Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death, Senators Told

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 18, 2014

At a Senate subcommittee hearing, hospital quality experts urge lawmakers to establish measures to halt preventable medical errors in hospitals, which kill as many as 400,000 people each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's role in quality of care should be greatly expanded to reduce many more types of patient harm, several leading healthcare quality leaders told members of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging Thursday.

"There's no reason to think what [the CDC] has been able to do around [healthcare-associated infections] they can't do in other areas like venous thromboembolism and medication errors, and they can partner with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," said Ashish Jha, MD, founder of the Initiative on Global Health quality at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"The CDC has a phenomenal track record (through the National Healthcare Safety Network reporting program), this is a public health problem, and the CDC is our public health agency. They have a central role to play."

Peter Pronovost, MD, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, urged the panel to "charge the CDC with developing monitoring and transparently reporting incident rates on the top causes of harm. They [the NHSN] do it for hospital-acquired infections now and they know how to do it for others."

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), called the hearing to publicize statistics showing that preventable medical errors in hospitals kill as many as 400,000 people each year, making it the third most common cause of death in America.

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6 comments on "Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death, Senators Told"


Guy Magnuson (9/4/2014 at 8:27 AM)
My comments are personal. I started out with a total shoulder replacement three years ago and ended up with a massive heart attack nine days after the the first surgery of a two stage revision surgery. The surgery was on July 21st. The heart attack happened on Agust 30th. The interventionist said very few people survive the type of heart attack I had. The heart attack was preventable and the original shoulder surgery was completely botched by a doctor who was too tired to do it right and cut corners. My life has been devestated by preventable medical errors. I am still not off the merry-go-round. I have just completed IV antibiotic therapy for theinfection I was left with after the first sholder surgery but now I need twelve weeks of cardiac rehab at a minimum before I go back to have a new prostetic device implanted. The doctor who did the first shoulder surgery schedule the surgery for 5:00 P.M. on a Friday afternnon. He then showed up at around 6:30P.M. because he had complications on the kneee surgery before my shoulder surgery. He was 13 hours into his day when he started my surgery. I have had a mal-prcatice attorney check him out since the surgery and he has been sued six times for mal-pratice, settled twice and has had three ex-wifes sue him. He has privledges at one of the most prestigous orthopedic hosptial in the country but yet they let a doctor with this record have privledges there. Before the surgery he told me I absolutely need a total shoulder replacement but then he only did a hemi-arthroplasty. The surgeon who just did the explant of his botched work states in his operative report that the bone and metal contact and the infection are the prime sources of the pain I have been experiencing for the past three years. there were many more mistakes taht he made but it is too long a story to tell here. The heart doctor who evaluated my heart before the last and third shoulder surgery was arrogant and rude. I told him I had been having chest pains for about a year but he wouldn't listen. He wrote on the evaluation the chest pain was not caused by my heart. About three weeks later I had a massive anterior wall miocardial infraction. The emergency room doctors told me my coronary artery was completely blocked. It didn't get that blocked in three weeks. The arrogant heart doctor who evaluted me committed a second preventatable medical error. His problem was arroangance driven incompetance. Now I am pretty much permantly disabled. I'm 61 years old and these two doctors took away my earning capacity in my prime. The errors they made were made with poor judgement. Doctors like this should be weedd out of the [INVALID]em, but they aren't. Instead hospitals and other doctors cover their mistakes for them. I am thinking honesty is a good starting point.

Danny Long (7/22/2014 at 4:31 PM)
1857: Florence Nightingale pushed for a government review of the health of the British army, and thanks to her efforts a Royal Commission, the equivalent of a congressional hearing, was granted and held in 1857. Swift audit of clinical records is mandated, with swift enforcement of 1035 false statements in healthcare matters law. see full text: http://shellyskalicky.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_22.html

Lydia RAmos (7/21/2014 at 3:04 PM)
From a nurses perspective has anyone seen the nursing ratios per patient. YOu will find that all hosptials are short staffed of RN's. Hospitals used to be safe however with the lack of enough nurses this will continue to occur if you do not have enough nurses to take care of patients,administer medications, do treatments, and all nursing functions now given to nursing. Team Nursing is still the best model where you have an RN, LVN adminiters medications and then your Nursing Assistant does baths, ambulation of patients etc. However fault of corporate hospitals and Nursing leaders who feel team nursing is the old model;however this one isn't working. Nurse for 43 years, and still working. Lydia Ramos RN 140 La Union ST. Anthony, NM 88021