Monday, April 23, 2007

Show Me The Numbers??

How many preventable medical errors are actually happening in our hospitals? When our friends, neighbors or family go into the hospital, are they safe? I really don’t know. No one seems to have the numbers because no one has to report it to the public. Do we even know how many people have the wrong procedure done, have been misdiagnosed or have had procedures they never even needed?

I was recently asked by a well respected community leader what is the problem on Long Island. Show me the numbers. I’m not sure we ever could. That’s because there is no funding available to pressure the hospitals to come clean in their reporting to the public. The funding to our legislators actually comes from the hospitals and healthcare industry.

Deaths from preventable medical errors are a problem across the country as reported by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. As many as 98,000 people die in hospitals from preventable medical errors in this country. Healthgrades, an independent firm in Colorado almost doubled that number in 2004 to 195,000 deaths. With 300 million people in the country and 3 million people on Long Island, using the lowest estimate, that would mean as many as 1,000 people die on Long Island in hospitals from preventable medical errors. Hospital acquired infections (HAIs) kill over 100,000 people annually which means the same amount of people on Long Island are dying from HAIs each year.

Firemen and policemen go to work fully prepared to do their jobs for safety reasons but yet hand washing in hospitals is still seen as a burden to many who work there.

On July 20, 2006, a report from the Institute of Medicine came out again that as many as 1.5 million people are injured from medication errors every year. Using this same calculation this would mean that 15,000 Long Islanders suffer from medication errors every year.

This may not be the statistics that our community leaders want but it is we have right now. And actually, when it’s your mother, father or child who dies or is permanently injured by a preventable medical error, isn’t “one” the number that counts?

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