Tom Sharon Evaluating the performance of health care executives


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Preventable Medical Errors
Where is the Outrage?

          According to the results of the Washington Post healthcare poll               published on October 20, 2003, the public is satisfied with the

quality of the health care system today but worried about its future. The reported “deep anxiety” of individuals is apparently over being unable to afford access to health care in the years ahead. This perceptible absence of concern over eroding quality is astounding in the face of reports in 2000 from The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine that preventable medical errors and hospital mistakes kill more people each year than automobiles, breast cancer or AIDS.


Buy New $12.95!

by Thomas A. Sharon R.N., M.P.H.

Each year nearly 100,000 people die in hospitals from preventable accidents, oversights, blunders or abuse. Many more suffer catastrophic injuries such as irreversible brain damage, amputation and paralysis. The most common harmful acts of commission or omission are neglect, failure to provide professional assessments, failure to follow established protocols and policies, incompetently performed procedures, failure to intervene with protective and preventive measures, careless blunders, medication errors, broken equipment, missing supplies and occasional criminal assaults. Such mishaps, resulting in trauma, choking, burns, bedsores and respiratory and cardiac arrest are occurring in every hospital from coast to coast with alarming regularity. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 1992 that 92,000 people die each year from hospital-acquired infections.
The poll in question noticeably unveiled a confounding absence of public outcry against so many unnecessary deaths and catastrophic injuries. Nonetheless, in our high-tech age of information infusion, one should conclude that the apparent lack of public attention does not necessarily translate to of awareness, which begs the question, “Where is the Outrage?”
The answer is that feelings of fear and helplessness suppress the potential for outrage, causing people to live in denial. Most people know that if faced with a life-threatening condition their survival depends on the providers and administrators of emergency medical and hospital services. Calling them to task and demanding legislation to make people safer hospitals and nursing facilities remains unthinkable.
On the other hand, the feelings of intimidation and vulnerability are nothing more than a story that has little to do with what happens. Ordinary people can easily learn the identity of the corporate directors and presiding health professionals who are in charge of making health care policy and hold them accountable for irresponsible behavior that compromises patient safety. My new book, Protect Yourself in the Hospital (Contemporary Books/McGraw-Hill; Oct./Nov. 2003; $12.95), teaches its readers how to evaluate the performance of health care executives and service providers and take appropriate action to avoid personal mishaps and effect changes in policy.

Thomas A. Sharon, R.N., M.P.H.
Hollywood, Florida

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