As if we don’t have enough problems with access to health care, but across the nation we are dealing with problems of degrading quality. And that’s not even relative quality to other nations. I mean just absolute drop in quality. Exhibit A: King Harbor Hospital:
California regulators moved Thursday to revoke the license of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, an action that, if not reversed, would force its closure. The move, the boldest thus far by the state, follows recent findings by the federal government that patients at the public hospital are in immediate jeopardy of harm or death despite years of reform efforts. (LA Times 6/22/2007)
If you’re so incline, you can click on over to that LA Times link and see the local news story, which, ahem, is a local news story. Follow me over the flip…
You see, King Harbor has had a poor history, to say the least, but in the last few months, dramatic, public stories have emerged:
Concern about King-Harbor has been building in recent weeks after highly publicized lapses in care.
In one case, a 43-year-old woman writhed untreated on the floor of King-Harbor’s emergency room lobby for 45 minutes before dying. In another, a brain tumor patient waited four days for treatment before his family drove him to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for emergency surgery.
On Tuesday, The Times reported that health inspectors, dispatched to investigate the brain tumor patient’s case, found 16 additional cases of substandard care in the King-Harbor emergency room.(LA Times 6/22/2007)
But the thing is, that this isn’t the only instance of this. You can find it all over our health care system. Hospitals failing their patients. Much of this is simply due to underfunding of public institutions, and other instances are due to corporate malfeasance or concern of dollar over person. You needn’t look all that hard for more problems. Here are some from Tenet healthcare, one of the largest hospital groups in the nation:
Last year Tenet paid out $31 million in settlements to people who sued when cardiac patients at a Florida hospital claimed they suffered from post-surgical infections because of unclean conditions. Twenty cardiac patients died at this hospital.
In 2002, the FBI raided a Tenet hospital in Redding, California, in connection with its investigation into whether doctors were performing unnecessary open-heart surgery. Tenet admitted no wrongdoing but paid $60 million to settle federal and state claims and another $395 million to the 750 patients who claimed they were victims of the heart-surgery center. CNN 3/9/06
It’s clearly not just this one instance at King-Harbor, or just with TENET. The system is the problem. We have little consistency between hospitals, and the profit motive is lying underneath much of the system, trying to grab a few dollars wherever possible.
So, yes, King-Harbor needs to be fixed, but it’s just one small cog in a massive, failing system of health care in this state and in this nation.