The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

July 18, 2012

A few tips that could save a life


SNAP

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 — This letter is about the result of my wife’s recent operation in Albemarle by an  orthopedic surgeon.

Information it contains could save you from serious injury. My wife isn’t identified, to prevent her from being spotlighted. She is a proud lady who rejects the very idea of sympathy, and I love her more than I could ever express. The reason I’m telling you about her medical treatment is so that you might avoid a similar experience.

Tests by a well-known neurologist revealed that my wife’s hip replacement operation so severely damaged nerves from her hip to her foot that she was permanently injured and will possibly endure permanent pain.

Naturally, the result of such damage changes many types of family relationships. Then, too, patients must actually pay for — finance — their own medical injury.

Some would dismiss my wife’s injury as unidentified error that just somehow happened. Doctors are human; human err — and so on. But that is simplistic thinking. Her surgeon has declined to admit any error whatsoever and the hospital definitely will not acknowledge substandard care. That only leaves my wife. Must it be assumed that she injured herself while anesthetized during the operation? If cause and responsibility are not identified, the same thing can recur, perhaps while someone you love or you are the helpless patient.

There is no government source of information rating hospitals and doctors which people can access. Public Citizen says, “Information about doctor discipline, including state sanctions, hospital disciplinary actions, and medical malpractice awards, is now contained in the National Practitioner Data Bank. While the Department of Health and Human Services, which controls the NPDB, makes available a Public Use File for statistical research, the names of the doctors are kept secret from the public.”

The NC Medical Board does exist to protect patients. But it doesn’t oversee hospitals and its Website (ncmedboard.org) states that over 99 percent of the time, it takes no disciplinary action regarding complaints about physicians. This article — Rowan Co. Doctor Loses License Over Improper Pills — (at wcnc.com) offers astonishing and shocking confirmation of the board’s own statements.

The Institute of Medicine says  about 1 in 5 N.C. hospital patients suffer injury or death. You can improve your odds at hospitalsafetyscore.org. Enter your zip code for the hospital nearest you with the highest safety rating. It uses U.S. government data to produce a composite score representing a hospital’s overall performance in safeguarding patients from preventable harm and medical errors.

Healthgrades.com reports on hospital safety regarding specific medical procedures. You can find a hospital with the highest safety rating related to types of medical injuries and/or types of conditions for which patients were treated. You can also compare physicians’ safety ratings and patient satisfaction scores. Or Google a doctor’s name or visit a site such as Vitals.com and search for ratings and comments from former patients.

You can also compare physicians according to the medical procedure you are facing.

Do your research. Aren’t you worth it?



Michael R. Smith

New London