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Government Report Says One-Third of Nursing Home Patients Harmed in Treatment

According to a study released this week by Medicare’s Inspector General, one in three patients in skilled nursing facilities suffered a medication error, infection or some other type of harm related to their treatment. A “skilled nursing facility” is defined as a facility that provides specialized care and rehabilitation services to patients following a hospital stay of three days or more. There are more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities nationwide, and about 90 percent of them are also certified as nursing homes, which provide longer-term care.

Researchers found that 22 percent of patients suffered events that caused lasting harm, and another 11 percent were temporarily harmed. In 1.5 percent of cases the patient died because of poor care, the report said. During August 2011 alone, the study estimated that 21,777 patients were harmed and 1,538 died due to substandard skilled nursing care.

Shockingly, the study revealed that 59 percent of the errors and injuries were preventable. Most of the injuries and deaths were caused by substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring, delays or the failure to provide needed care. Many of the deaths involved problems such as preventable blood clots, fluid imbalances, excessive bleeding from blood-thinning medications and kidney failure.

Patient safety experts have naturally being to voice their concerns because of these alarming numbers, as well as the fact that the frequency of people harmed under skilled nursing care is exceeding that of hospitals, where medical errors receive the most attention. According to Dr. Marty Makary, a physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore who researches health care quality, “The report tells us what many of us have suspected – there are vast areas of health care where the field of patient safety has not matured.” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, said Medicare patients “deserve better,” and that he would push for better inspections of nursing homes. Additionally, in response to the study, Medicare officials said they are compiling lists of the most common medical mistakes, and preparing better training for doctors and nurses in skilled nursing facilities on how to avoid the mishaps.

The Suthers Law Firm, which practices throughout the States of Georgia and South Carolina, regularly represents victims who have been abused or neglected and their families in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If you believe a family member has suffered a serious injury or died as a result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you should contact the experienced, nursing home litigation attorneys at Suthers Law Firm. For more information on nursing home abuse and neglect, see the page entitled “Nursing Home Resource Center” at the website of the Suthers Law Firm, www.sutherslaw.com.