Kathleen Finlay is founder and CEO of The Center for Patient Protection, helping to capture the wisdom of patients and families in combating medical errors and reducing emotional harm in the hospital setting.
Previously involved in public policy and capital markets regulation, Kathleen's career took a sudden and unexpected turn following the six-month hospitalization of her elderly mother. It was an experience that made Kathleen determined to play a role in changing a system that is too often lacking in transparency and accountability and leaves too many patients and families injured and devastated by the emotional harm of medical errors. Today she is recognized as a leading voice for patients and families in the campaign to reduce medical errors, and for the significant benefits and cost savings that safer care and reduced incidents of emotional harm can produce.
Kathleen is a frequent media commentator on healthcare and patient safety issues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient who was sent home by the Texas hospital even while presenting with the early stages of the Ebola virus, has died. In the case of Mr. Duncan and the global fear of Ebola, the world can now see the consequences of medical errors and the predictable pattern of excuses that follows.
A shocking CBC/Canadian Press investigation has again confirmed how powerful anti-psychotic drugs are being abused. This time, the news is about quetiapine, marketed under the brand name Seroquel, being given to female inmates in Canadian prisons.
Nobody takes on a hospital or embarks on a campaign for safer care without good reason. There are a whole range of institutions and resources that are stacked against you, from big law firms to hospital patient relations departments which are there mainly to do management's bidding. Don't even think about trying to get anywhere with a hospital's board of directors. There seems to be some unwritten rule in Canada that no matter how urgent or justified the matter, a hospital board will never respond to the pleas of a family seeking answers.
Should a hospital really have something called a "Quality Dying Initiative?" Apparently, Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre thinks so. And because it is Canada's largest teaching hospital, what it does carries considerable weight with hospitals across the country.
Want to know another proven and really cheap method of improving patient safety? Wash your hands. So serious is the failure of doctors, nurses and other clinicians to follow this simple age-old motherly dictum, that the Ontario government requires hospitals to regularly report their level of pre-patient and post-patient hand hygiene compliance.
Three years ago, on a crisp November morning, my mother fell down a long flight of stairs in her home. I didn't know at the time that her life, and mine, were also about to descend into a dark and often agonizing journey through Canada's healthcare system. By the time this second hospital was through with my mother, her demise was said to be "imminent."
One of the great unreported stories of the Canadian healthcare system is the avidity of hospitals to use limited taxpayer funds to hire lawyers, with the acquiescence of political leaders, in an effort to evade accountability or to silence families and others who raise inconvenient questions.
There is a medical emergency rolling across the land and into its hospital rooms. It is the epidemic of hospital medical errors that is literally killing thousands of patients each year. There are numerous reasons that have been put forth as to why there continue to be so many medical errors. Perhaps what is required is not a no-fault culture, but one where it actually becomes unlawful not to report medical errors.
A recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a doctor's unilateral right to deny life-sustaining medical treatment to a patient over the family's objections. Attention needs to turn now to another life and death situation that is often bewildering and sometimes fraught with abuse: the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decision when made by a family on behalf of a loved one. Physicians will often seek a DNR consent from a family member when an older patient is brought into the hospital. Their approach can be overly aggressive. I experienced this several years ago when my mother was hospitalized with a serious infection.
Many Canadians have learned the hard way that their healthcare system is not nearly as safe as it needs to be. My family's eye-opening experience began a few years ago with the sudden hospitalization of our elderly mother, who sustained a serious brain injury after a fall. We knew this was going to be a life-altering event. What we did not anticipate was a second trauma caused by horrific failures during her hospitalization.
I took time away from my professional activities some three years ago after my mother suffered a traumatic brain injury. I had no idea then that my life, and especially my career and income, would face a second trauma. My experience is apparently not uncommon.
Many saw Rona Ambrose's vote as the opening salvo in an effort to unwind the long-established principle of a woman's right to choose, and a terrible betrayal by Ambrose, who should now be called the minister in charge of turning back the clock. None of this was terribly surprising, since women seem to have been coasting on autopilot when it comes to protecting the rights we have gained, much less advancing the cause of equality and fairness going forward.
Perhaps if more insiders had come forward to expose wrongdoing, and irregularities at the major U.S. banks and investment houses a few years ago, the impact of the financial meltdown leading to the Great Recession might have been softened. Until each one of us does this, we're all muppets.
The problems begin when they go back to my previous employer even for an informal reference. When only days earlier I had been asked how quickly I could start, what greets me afterward is stone silence.