Hospital or Emergency Department Errors

According to a publication by the American Hospital Association, there are nearly 6,000 hospitals in the United States, with a combined capacity of almost one million beds.  Hospitals range from large, university-based quaternary care centers, with bed capacities of over 1,000 to small, rural hospitals with less than 20 beds.  While many large, tertiary referral centers garner high ratings in surveys such as “The US News Best Hospitals in America,” they are still prone to error.

  One of the most dangerous places to be in the United States is in a hospital—in fact, hospital admission is much more dangerous than flying in an airplane.  The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that 1 in 300 persons admitted to a hospital will be killed, while the odds of dying in an airplane crash is about 1 in 10 million.  Seven patients out of every 100 in a developed country, and ten in developing countries, will acquire at least one preventable infection—such as a virus or a surgical-site infection.  Many of these infections are preventable merely by healthcare workers properly washing their hands before treating patients.  Hand washing in hospitals has dismal compliance rates, requiring hospital administrators to go to remarkable lengths to enforce even this most basic tenet of good medical care.

A hospitalized  patient is almost totally dependent upon others for all of their needs.  Cost cutting has induced hospitals to reduce the number of registered nurse staff and replace them with less skilled nurses aides.  For many, many reasons too detailed to express here (very few of which are related to the well-being of the patient), the family practitioner or internist no longer follows his patient when she is hospitalized: in-hospital care is now usually provided by one or more physicians designated a “hospitalist,”  who may be well trained, but have no long-term understanding of the history of their patient.

A common but understandable misconception held by hospitalized patients is that the hospital, rather than the myriad number of white-coated providers coming in and out of a patient’s room, is itselfresponsible for their medical care.  Indeed, a lot of money is spent by hospitals in their advertising bids to bring the next insured patient through its doors. When a hospital encourages its patients to view it—rather than the individual care providers—as the entity proving the care, or responsible for it, then the courts will allow a jury to hold a hospital responsible for negligently caused injuries within its facilities.  However, most physicians, including Emergency Department Physicians, are not employed by the hospital entity, but are  independent contractors.  Nurses are typically actual employees of the hospital, but they, too, can be independent contractors.  If a patient is injured during a hospital visit, a claim is brought against not only the hospital, but also against the individual physicians involved.If you have been injured, or believe that you have been injured  during a hospitalization, we can analyze pertinent records to determine which persons or entities may be liable.  We include all properly responsible parties as defendants to better ensure that there are sufficient funds available to compensation for serious injuries that may have been caused.  The mere fact that something bad occurred during a hospitalization does not necessarily mean that any entity is negligent – despite the best care, a patient may leave a hospital in worse condition than when they entered.

Certain states have shorter time periods to bring claims against publically owned or regulated hospitals.  Hospitals affiliated with or controlled by the United States government (including “Deemed Health Centers”)  have a strict two-year claim requirement pursuant to the Federal Tort Claim Act.  If you believe that you have been injured during a hospitalization, please call immediately to discuss your case with us.