Senior citizens are at risk if they have to spend time in a hospital. A new government study concludes that 15,000 Medicare patients die every month as a result of complications suffered during their hospital stay. Equally alarming, about 134,000 older people are harmed in hospitals each month. Surgical errors, hospital acquired infections and drug-related complications are just some of the adverse events that were tallied up in the report from the Inspector General at Health and Human Services. Almost half of the problems were considered avoidable. This is discouraging news since it suggests that relatively little progress has been made since the 1999 report on medical mistakes entitled To Err is Human.

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  1. SB

    My 86 year old father was hospitalized a year ago for a stomach bug – high fever & vomiting – an 8 hour drive from where I live. Within 2 months, he had been sent to 4 different hospitals and 2 rehabs. The last hospital was a locked-down geriatric psychiatric hospital because he was in acute psychosis due to the medications he had been put on. I had to move him to where I live so that I could take over his care.
    I also moved my mother here and we had to clean out & sell their house. I was not going to let anything happen to either of them again. He’s now almost back to normal although there are some lasting results. He had been a vibrant part of the community – driving and sitting on 2 local boards until this happened. Their lives have been turned upside down.
    I requested copies of all of his records from all of the facilities & it was unbelievable how many misdiagnoses there were. Most of his problems had been caused by new medications that they put him on – side effects and drug interactions. I have been advised to contact a malpractice attorney. YOU MUST EDUCATE YOURSELVES as to the side effects of the medications and what is going on with their care. The doctors are on their rounds so early that you have to ambush them at 6:00 in the morning to talk to them. DO IT! Make friends with the nurses. They can be your allies.

  2. ED

    I’ve been working in a hospital Radiology department for fifteen years as an imaging technologist. We constantly receive incorrect orders for studies for our patients who are primarily Medicare, Medicaid and indigent no-pays. In the past we could call doctor’s offices and request that they fax us new prescriptions for what the patients really need.
    In almost every case they would write a new prescription based on our request. This is also true of the doctors that write orders for our inpatients as well as for our Emergency Department patients.
    Sad as it seems, based on our experience we often know more than those who order these studies.
    The administration in our hospital has implemented a system whereby a staff of clerks with no medical knowledge process the prescriptions for our outpatients. As a safety measure they are supposed to enter an actual copy of the prescription for us to review before doing a study. I can’t tell you how many errors they make and how many corrections we make for them.
    We have been told that we can only do what the prescription states. No changes are permissible. When we ask the admissions area to call the doctor’s offices to request necessary changes, we’re told it isn’t their job. So now we do what is ordered even when we know it’s wrong.
    I’m warning you all to be extremely careful when dealing with the health care industry. Before taking meds talk with your pharmacist. And be extra careful when you go for tests. Ask why it’s being done and don’t be afraid to say no.
    Medical people are not gods and make loads of mistakes. It’s a miracle more people don’t die in hospitals. I bet more people die than the statistics show, and I am certain that the number of wrong orders written for all types of orders are in the millions.

  3. BA

    I was hospitalized in a famous university research hospital in 2005, at age 69, for extensive back surgery. I subsequently contacted hospital-born MRSA. The hospital denied the connection & GA is not required to report infection rates. They loaded me down with IV antibiotics which I became allergic to–more denials, and I ended up with an anaphylactic reaction.
    I will NEVER enter a hospital again, or allow my kids to, without a certified nurse advocate. And I am a nurse–but the doctors wouldn’t listen to me; their arrogant attitude was unbelievable.

  4. CBL

    As much as the public dislikes lawyers, hospitals do respond when law suits for preventable damage/harm to patients cost them money. Also, bathing with antibacterial soap for two weeks before surgery and asking questions (such as “Did you wash your hands?”) of hospital staff can help eliminate mistakes. The vast majority of medical professionals really do care about their patients and patient safety. But accountability is necessary to help improve hospitals’ performance.

  5. Diane in WNY

    Even if the mistakes don’t kill you, the hospital protocol will. My mom had COPD and was in and out of the hospital numerous times in in a short period of time. Each time she had to go through the same procedures – x-rays, IVs and blood testing even though it was the same hospital. A person who is 91 with COPD does not need to be subjected to all that over and over again. It was pathetic to see all the bruises and needle marks all over her arms and hands. She finally died because she refused to re-enter the hospital again and go through all that. She should have been referred to Hospice. She would probably still be alive!
    I am also amazed when I see reports like this. Everybody makes companies recall products or remove them from the market when a handful of people die because of them, but nobody seems to care when it comes to medical errors or protocols that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year!

  6. Lee F.

    Even as a child, hospitalized for a poisonous snake bite, the staph infection picked up in the hospital had effects lasting for years.
    Later in life, I realized that in most hospitals you are on your own! I repeatedly suffered the beginnings of respiratory collapse in a hospital that was in “Architectural Digest” for its’
    innovative round design and central nurses station “just steps away” from me. I would have been more than slightly dead before the nurses noticed anything was amiss- their heads being few in number and always down working on endless paperwork. I am glad that I always managed to re-inflate my flaccid airways without an assist!

  7. nm

    Some nurses think a squirt of anti bacterial foam is good but I got pneumonia after a hospital visit for an unrelated problem. Bring on the soap and water.

  8. Gerry Anne M.

    This kind of report continues to appear without any hint that progress is being made in using better methods to serve patients in hospitals. It is hard to accept that the USA–a leader in the world–cannot do better in this regard. It is more than shameful; it is unbelievable!!
    What will it take to get better practices in place? Yes, there have been descriptions of better practices devised and in place, but the problem seems to be in getting adherence to them.

  9. mmarie

    No one, and especially not anyone over 65, should be in a hospital without a knowledgeable patient advocate being attentive and assertive about care administered.

  10. BC

    This is why EVERY patient both young and old need a patient advocate to be with them when hospitalized. We have learned also from the many hospital stays of my husband to take his own meds and insist on administering them ourselves. Nurses don’t like it but too bad.

  11. mw

    When I was in hospital recently, I asked to take my own maintenance drugs. I was refused, so I had to take whatever they gave me and pay their price. I know how I respond to my own drugs and would be safer taking them. On new drugs given, I would like to see the data on them prior to having them given to me in a little cup with no info. Thanks

  12. JB

    Boy isn’t this the truth. My Mom never saw a doctor for at least 15 years prior to her death. Her quote..” a hospital is no place for a sick person”.
    It wasn’t till she had to start seeing a doctor that her health deteriated
    to the point she had to enter a hospital where she contracted sepsis and died after a long miserable period.
    I can only hope I dont die like she did. Hospitals are no place for a sick person

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