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Health-care cultures that will not acknowledge or admit to medical errors, and therefore fail to learn from them, or permit expressions of resentment and disrespect by care teams (and administrators) to patients and families seeking information are the very antithesis of what patients need and what a caring society should accept.
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Quality seems like a word that's easy to define and easier to understand. But that's not quite the reality. In health care, quality is a term invoked by many, but often lacking a shared meaning. And in the absence of a single vision, it can be hard to collaborate on efforts to improve the health system.
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While our hospitals save lives every day, they are also the third leading cause of avoidable death every year. In Canada, medical errors and hospital-acquired infections claim between 30,000 and 60,000 lives annually. Thousands more are injured. But to the public, these incidents are largely invisible.
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A recent report from one of the most respected medical authorities in the world, is yet another jolting reminder that reducing harm to patients and families remains one of the foremost challenges facing our healthcare systems.
My experience is that patients and families who have been harmed by medical errors in the hospital setting have a lot to offer about what needs to be done to make the system safer. Many are especially articulate about the emotional harm their experience caused.
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As a patient, you are entitled to a full discussion with your surgeon about the potential benefits -- and risks -- of an operation before you give consent to the treatment. "Patients certainly shouldn't feel intimidated or concerned about asking questions. It is ultimately their health that is at stake," says Sally Bean, a Policy Advisor and Ethicist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. In my experience, most surgeons are quite happy to discuss those types of things with you." So, to answer your question, it is okay to ask a doctor how often he or she has performed the procedure.
Visit any major city in North America and you will quickly discover the link between cash and name recognition in healthcare. Some rich person gives a few million to an urban hospital and their name goes up on a wing. Recently, a generous $3 million donation to Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital was celebrated in a full-page advertisement in Canada's national newspape
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In the U.S., the Center for Patient Protection recently reviewed the data top hospital rating organizations provide about hospital safety performance. They cover the smallest community hospitals right up to the biggest teaching facilities, in a format where access to the information is quick and user-friendly. You won't find similar information anywhere in Canada.
As consumers, we've long insisted on having access to information about the products we buy -- whether they're automobiles or coffee makers. The same transparency pressures are now overtaking the healthcare sector. Except in Canada.
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When patients cannot be fully engaged with their care and the decisions being made, that responsibility becomes the family's. There is no more precious gift you can give your mom or dad than the gift of hospital safety. My mother's doctors repeatedly warned that her demise was imminent. Without a vigilant family, it would have been.
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This will be my mother's fifth Christmas since her life-altering injury and a hospitalization that produced a cascade of incidents and a record number of medical errors that left her many times at death's door.
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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.
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.
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.