The Lewiston Sun-Journal is reporting that for the second year in a row, the federal government will be penalizing a Central Maine hospital for its failure to curb sky-high rates of patient injuries and infections. The sanctions are being handed out by Medicare, which funds a significant portion of patient care costs. The news doesn’t come as a complete shock, given that the hospital’s accrediting agency released a report weeks earlier saying the facility had failed to enact proper procedures necessary to curb hospital-acquired infections. The provider was given one month to fix this issue or risk losing its accreditation, which could result in even greater funding losses.
The hospital president released a statement indicating the hospital is working hard to improve on these issues, rather than shy away from them, and it aims to provide a safe space for patients and employees alike.
While it’s positive that the organization appears to be taking responsibility for these shortcomings, our Maine medical malpractice attorneys wouldn’t expect such a forthcoming attitude should a lawsuit arise as a result of these lapses in the standard of care. Most facilities and individual practitioners vigorously fight back against allegations of wrongdoing leading to serious injury, illness, or death of patients. Having an experienced attorney to help navigate such claims is imperative, since they are often much more complex and contentious than many other types of personal injury claims.
Unfortunately, this hospital in Central Maine wasn’t even close to being alone in its designation of falling short. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released information indicating they were fining more than 750 hospitals nationally for their failure to address rampant hospital-acquired infections and patient injuries. Four of those were in Maine (Central Maine Medical Center, Southern Maine Health Care, York Hospital, and Cary Medical Center). Central Maine is the only facility in the state to make that list twice in a row.
The practice of fining hospitals for not doing enough to slash infection and injury rates began four years ago, under the premise that while it obviously harms patients, it also costs the federal government a great deal of money. Infections that are considered preventable are generally those that occur after certain procedures or surgeries, including urinary tract infection catheters, central lines, and hysterectomies. Injuries and complications considered include sepsis, blood clots, and bed sores, among others. Hospitals stand to lose about 1 percent of their annual Medicare payments annually (which can sometimes amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars) if they don’t clean up their act.
The president of Central Maine Hospital stressed that the numbers being used by CMS are outdated, and some improvements have been made since then. It should be noted, however, that the accreditation commission conducted its survey early last month. The hospital president, though, indicates the commission made re-accreditation a more rigorous process last year, which meant many hospitals not just in Maine but throughout New England fell short of the new standards. This raising of the bar means facilities need time to catch up, he said.
As for medical malpractice cases, it’s imperative to note that the standard of care is really what matters. Whether you get sick in a hospital or suffer a serious complication as a result of your surgery may not be grounds for litigation, no matter how badly you’re hurt. What will be looked at is whether the facility, employees, and doctors followed the applicable standard of care, given their region, education, experience, and specialty. Establishing this can be difficult but not impossible. Most hospital-acquired infections are results of employees failing to adhere to proper sanitary and medical protocols – if those protocols were in place at all.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates 722,000 people suffer hospital-acquired infections in U.S. acute care hospitals, and about 75,000 patients with those illnesses die during hospitalizations. It’s a serious issue that requires immediate attention. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of a hospital-acquired infection in Maine, our Bangor medical malpractice attorneys can help.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
CMMC penalized for infections, patient safety, Dec. 26, 2017, By Lindsay Tice, Sun Journal
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$1.785M Awarded in Maine Medical Malpractice Lawsuit, Feb. 1, 2016, Bangor Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog