Statistically, nearly 7 of every 1,000 births nationwide results in injury to the child. Unfortunately, such was the case for Ben Harman, who was born 13 years ago at Kent Hospital in England. His particular birth injury was caused by the doctors and nurses failing to check his blood sugar levels at birth, despite the clear warning signs that required that check. What’s worse? The hospital did not explain the child’s condition to his parents until four years later.
Having a baby should be the happiest day of a parent’s life. Unfortunately, inattentive doctors and failed hospital systems can cause that happy time to turn into a catastrophic event. Since our childhood, we have been taught not to question those in power and to always show proper respect. The practice of medicine, however, has continued to devolve to the point that many health care providers and hospital systems have begun putting profits over patient safety. They schedule too many patients in a day and too many births in a given time block. When this happens, individual patient care takes a back seat, and important findings are missed. For example, certain medical conditions, like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, should be diagnosed by an OBGYN during the woman’s pregnancy. If the doctor fails to properly monitor the condition, it can result in a horrible outcome for the baby, including cerebral palsy (caused by lack of oxygen to the brain). Similarly, fetal distress during delivery should be immediately recognized and treated to prevent anoxic brain injury. If it is not properly diagnosed, the baby will suffer serious, permanent injury.
A new report from CNN.com reveals that nearly half of the hospitals that perform children’s heart surgery provide no data or statistics on surgical death rates. In fact, 60 out of 109 hospitals fail to provide that basic information that patients may rely on. What’s worse? That means that parents have no idea what the death rate from surgery could be for their child based on the 22,000 babies and children who have heart surgery each year.
Just this weekend, four babies were reported dead at a hospital in Dehradun, India. While the specific details of these incidents of hospital negligence are not yet known, these tragedies bring up a bigger issue in our medical world: Why are so many people—babies and adults alike—dying at such a rapid rate? The answer can be found in what is causing hospital negligence.
The most recent study of patient safety reported there were between 210,000 to 440,000 preventable deaths each year due to medical negligence. That makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in our country. Why does this number keep increasing, and are we even truly safe from hospital negligence? While there are many contributing reasons, perhaps the most important one is that many hospitals are beginning to be run more as profit centers than as patient care centers. When hospitals put profits over patient safety, the results can be catastrophic. There a few things that we as the public can do to help prevent hospital and doctor errors, but at the end of the day, the onus is still on the healthcare providers to do their jobs appropriately.