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Study Finds Hospitals Still Unsafe

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North CarolinaThe first large study in a decade finds efforts to make hospitals safer for patients are falling short, reported The New York Times yesterday. The most common problems were complications from procedures or drugs—medical mistakes —and hospital-acquired infections.

The New England Journal of Medicine study reviewed the records of 2,341 patients admitted to 10 North Carolina hospitals and found about 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care. Of those patients, 63.1 percent of the injuries were judged to be preventable and 2.4 percent of the problems caused or contributed to a patient's death. Medication errors caused problems in 162 cases.

The last study of this magnitude (The Institute of Medicine, 1999) found that medical mistakes caused as many as 98,000 deaths and more than one million injuries a year in the US. A government report (Dept. of Health and Services, Nov. 2010) said that in October 2008, 13.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, or 134,000 patients, experienced "adverse events" during hospital stays.
This latest study said that many of the problems were caused by the hospitals' failure to use measures that had been proved to avert mistakes and to prevent infections from devices like urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries.

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A lot of medical mistakes being made are due to the way the medical work is organized. Or I should say, disorganized.

I used to work in a medical laboratory, where the management one day decided to make drastic changes in the workflow there. Instead of having the workers rotate between 4 different types of work and stay in each type for 2-3 months at a time. The management increased the rotation to 9 different types of work. And the workers got to stay only 2-3 weeks in each type of work.

Of course, this greatly increased the amount of competence and knowledge each worker needed to have at his and her fingertips. And I'd say that such work organization exceeded some human limitations, at least it did for me.

It took me about a week to become completely familiar and comfortable at my new work station, every time I was moved. And moving every 2 weeks like this was a little too much for me. Because half of the time I wasn't quite sure if I was doing everything right, and I was afraid that I would make a big mistake some day.

I tried my best. I didn't make any big mistakes. And I had very good performance reviews from my supervisors. But I left that workplace anyway and found another job. Because I really didn't feel comfortable working this way, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

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