Monday, August 24, 2009

The situation in a hospital is not that a patient should never be left alone, but that the patient’s family should not have to be alone either to deal with the emotional stresses of having a family member hospitalized for a serious, or even a non-serious ailment.

I wouldn’t say there should be a third party around the bed 24/7. That’s just not realistic. I am saying an “advocate” available to the family, not affiliated with the health system is needed. That’s where I come in.

Recently I went to visit a 97 year old woman in a rehab center / nursing home. Her mind is as sharp as someone half her age but she is in rehab following a fall at home.

Her grandson told me her call bell was not working. He has asked for it to be fixed on numerous occasions and each time a report is filed, someone comes in and changes the cord, it works and they leave. Immediately following the “repair” it doesn’t work again.

A 97 year old woman who is considered a fall risk needs a call bell. This is a serious safety issue – period.

Unfortunately this lovely woman soiled herself during the night when no one was answering her call bell, that didn’t work. This angered the family, no doubt, even more.

By the time I arrived, the call bell was changed about 3 times. The family was angry, or so they should be, we now had a dangerous situation; Grandma could easily get up and fall.

When I went to the nurse’s station to report this hazard, I was told that a report will be filed. I wanted to see someone in charge. Soon I was face to face with the person in charge of maintenance. Together we went to grandma’s room and the box was pulled out and replaced. It was a short in the box in the wall. Obvious even to me.

Why did it come to anger and danger when it could have easily been looked at as a problem after the first time the call bell stopped working again? The nurse in charge would have allowed it to continue were I not insistent that someone in charge get involved.

What is also troubling is that the "Director of Plant Engineering', the gentleman who accompanied me to the room, did not know about the numerous complaints. He thought he was not responsible because he didn’t know – but why didn’t he know? What is the communication breakdown that allowed this to go on for so long?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, falls account for 70% of hospital accidents. Effective October 1, 2008, Medicare and many state Medicaid agencies no longer reimburse hospitals for costs associated with treating injuries incurred by patients who fall while hospitalized.

A study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totals $19,440.00 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is therefore my opinion, we may have saved this facility almost $20,000.00. Something to consider when they say they have no funding.

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