Are rehabilitation hospitals doing more harm than good?

Because of negligence and medical mistakes, many patients leave rehab hospitals in worse shape than they were when they arrived.

A recently released government report reveals some very troubling news coming out of the nation's rehabilitation hospitals. These facilities are usually long-term, where patients go to recover after catastrophic injuries and illnesses, including serious car accidents, strokes, complex surgeries, burns and the like. The study, which involved the in-depth review of Medicare patient records by physicians, found that 29 percent of rehabilitation facility patients suffered some form of preventable injury or illness because of negligence, oversight, incorrect procedures or other wrongful action on the part of facility staff.

The harms suffered by patients in this report varied, but included such serious conditions as bedsores, medication errors and acquired infections.

Bedsores

Bedsores are also known as "pressure sores" or by their technical medical description, "decubitus ulcers." These painful lesions develop from unrelenting pressure or friction on an area of the body, often the hip bones or knees, on the backs of the heels or elbows, or along the spine. They happen when immobile patients aren't manually turned or repositioned by staff members to relieve pressure points. If the sores go down deep enough into the patient's tissue, they can result in gangrene (which could lead to limb amputation) or a systemic, possibly fatal infection known as "sepsis."

Acquired infection

When staff members don't exercise adequate hygiene measures, then infections could be carried in from the outside and seriously harm already weakened patients whose immune systems are compromised. Germs can also be spread from patient to patient by staff members if proper hand-washing or foaming protocols aren't followed, or if reusable tools aren't fully sanitized in between patients. Furthermore, not properly sanitizing rooms and washing linens in hot enough water could mean that infectious agents linger on surfaces in rooms.

Medication errors

There are a number of different types of medication errors that can result in serious harm to patients.

  • Giving two similarly named patients (like Jane Smith and John Smith, for example), could literally kill one of them, particularly if one has serious allergies to an ingredient.
  • Incorrect dosing, like giving two tablets of a particularly potent drug when only one was prescribed, can double the number of side effects, or could cause such serious reactions as vomiting, internal bleeding or organ failure.
  • Administering the wrong concentration of a medication, like a 50 percent solution instead of a 5 percent one, or a 75 mg tablet instead of a 7.5 mg tablet, can be fatal or cause many more problems than the underlying condition itself did.
  • When the incorrect medication is given altogether, like Zantac instead of Zyrtec, for example, then such issues as failure to improve or adverse reactions can happen.

If you or someone you love has suffered an illness or injury due to the negligence of a hospital, surgery center, rehabilitation facility or other medical provider, you have legal rights. Contact the Des Moines law offices of Galligan Reid for more information; call us toll free at 800-217-9312 or locally at 515-282-3333, or send us an email today.