Monday, September 24, 2012

Should We Close Down a Hospital?

Close Down a Hospital For Unsafe Care; Is that the Answer?
I spoke at a large group of about 100 retired professionals this week. The topic was Patient Safety and I covered the usual falls, infections, literacy, surgery and medication safety. We touched on advanced directives, generic brand medications and communication. Following the presentation I was met with a flurry of compliments from people about how informative it was.
A woman came up to me and asked privately “how do we have a hospital closed down?” I asked her why, and she said it was a terrible hospital. She wasn’t giving me specifics but pressured her to think about her comment, “why would you want a hospital to close and not improve?”
I finally got her to tell me that they released someone from the hospital who was not ready to leave. Her anger and frustration was apparent and I suggested that we can meet with the hospital administration to share what she witnessed. 
It isn't unusual that in the helplessness of caring for someone we love and feeling that we are not being heard, a family member gets angry at the situation and takes it out on the entire establishment that they trusted. 
I have learned to recognize that when someone is treated poorly or there is an injury or death of a patient, their loved one's want to punish the place that caused them grief.  They don't see that in the next house there is a family who survived the care, and may be alive today because of that facility.  So, as a society, how do we improve on the "little" things that may have been an injury or caused a death to a patient before it becomes a tragedy?
If that women never acted on what she witnessed by reaching out to the hospital, and I can't because we haven't met to talk more about it, then there is a tragedy waiting to happen that can cost the life of a patient.  Closing the hospital may not be the answer but starting a conversation with that hospital might very well save a life.