This is the same columnist who actually wrote a piece a few weeks ago stating that hospital errors are the seventh leading cause of death in the country, culled from some uncited, arbitrary source. In this article Ms Suchetka uses someone named Michael McCauley for a quote:
"These are conditions that are considered preventable," said Michael McCauley, media director for the Stop Hospital Infections Campaign run by Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. "If hospitals were to set up efforts to follow these longstanding practices, the vast majority of these medical errors and infections could be prevented."
What's the Stop Hospital Infectious Campaign? Do they go by SHIC? Sounds like a fringe activist group to me. It's like writing a piece entitled "The Health Benefits of Anabolic Steroids" and using Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire as your sole sources. Or an article entitled "Cockfighting: Your Key to Social Networking" featuring juicy tidbits from Michael Vick. Where's the counterquote from someone actually involved in the delivery of healthcare? Giving equal weight to arguments is apparently something Ms. Suchetka isn't interested in.
And there's no argument here. The whole concept of "never events" is absurd anyway. Recently, DVT's after orthopedic procedures and wound infections after bariatric surgery were added to the list. This is inexplicable. And frightening for a healthcare provider. Venous thromboembolism can occur in up to 70% of patients after hip replacement if no prophylaxis is utilized. Even with the use of heparin or lovenox or coumadin, the risk still remains at around 5-10%. All scientific papers published on DVT prophylaxis talk about risk reduction. In no work of science will you read about a method of eliminating all risk of DVT after elective orthopedic procedures. As for the occurence of wound infections after bariatric surgery, only an absolute moron would advocate the stance that such occurrences are completely preventable. We have over 60 years of scientific research on surgical site infections. There are established norms and percentages for the development of wound infections after certain invasive procedures. The number isn't zero, no matter what how sterile or careful you are or how appropriately perioperative antibiotics are given. With bariatric surgery, you're dealing with patients who are obese and who often have diabetes; the two conditions most highly associated with surgical site infections. The list also condemns things like delirium and foley catheter infections and decubitus ulcers as completely preventable. In other words, when you slide a foreign body made out of rubber through your urethra into your bladder, the possibility that no bacteria will travel along the catheter to your bladder, thus setting up an infection ought to be zero..... Those sounds you hear in the background are knives being sharpened by thousands of personal injury lawyers across the country.
It wouldn't bother me so much if a piece like this appeared in some wack-job anti-medical establishment blog. But this is an article that will be read by thousands of people in Northeast Ohio. It's featured in a major midwestern newspaper. And it isn't appropriate. As a physician I aspire for perfection, but I can only aspire. The reality is that the human body is a remarkably complex machine, susceptible to a variety of uncontrollable factors. As much as we'd like to think we can standardize health care like a Ford Motor assembly line, the viccissitudes of human illness and suffering make it an impossible task. Can we be better? Of course. But to demonize adverse outcomes as "medical errors" and "preventable events" is to further alienate patients from physicians at a time when the very delivery of adequate healthcare for all is in a crisis.