The Hospital Goofed Up
ASK WHAT HAPPENED. In an ideal world, you'd get a prompt explanation. The reality, though, is that open discussion of a medical mistake, along with an apology, remains uncommon. Still, some hospitals -- like Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore -- are working toward more openness.
GET A COPY OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS. It's your right to see your file -- but you may not get your complete records, says Bruce G. Fagel, MD, an ER physician turned medical-malpractice lawyer in Beverly Hills, California. In a birth-injury case, for instance, one of the most crucial documents is the fetal-monitoring strip, but it won't be in your file unless you ask for it.
START KEEPING YOUR OWN NOTES. Write down everything, including dates, procedures, medications, and the names of health-care staffers who cared for you. If you opt to sue, your own record may be an effective tool against the usually vague notations in most patient's charts. "Doctors are constantly told what kinds of things not to put in medical records," Fagel says.
SPEAK TO A HIGHER-UP. If you don't get a satisfactory answer from the physician, talk to someone at a higher level. Also, ask to speak with an ombudsman and a patient advocate.
FILE A COMPLAINT. If you're still not satisfied, complain to your state or local health department, as well as to the Federal Hospital Joint Commission at the internet address: (www.jointcommission.org/GeneralPublic/Complaint). Patients who've experienced an error usually want to make sure the same mistake never happens to anyone else; lodging a complaint is one of the best ways to do that.
CONSULT A LAWYER. If you don't get an acceptable answer from the hospital, you may want to consult a lawyer. If you decide to sue, a good medical-malpractice attorney can help you navigate the Byzantine world of state and local laws.
Editor's Note: This was reprinted from Health Magazine, July/Aug '08, written by Lorie Parch.
Get Your Hospital Records ASAPThe POA suggests that any person receiving treatment at the Villages Hospital, who is unhappy with the services or care received during their ER visit or subsequent hospital stay, make sure they receive a copy of their medical records of their stay before leaving the hospital or shortly thereafter.
In the event that the patient should later realize that the hospital was negligent in their care, if the medical records were with the patient, the hospital would no longer be able to change or alter the records before the State of Florida can conduct a complaint survey.
We have received comment from at least one Villager that after filing a complaint the hospital records were altered before being given to the state in its investigation of a formally filed complaint.
Where To File
· For comments about The Villages Regional Hospital, contact:
Mr. Tim Menton
Administrator of TVRH
1451 El Camino Real
The Villages, FL 34748
· For comments on LRMC or to Mr. Menton's boss, contact:
Mr. Lee Huntley, CEO
Central Fla. Hospital Alliance
600 E. Dixie Highway
Leesburg, FL 34748
· For comments about procedures, policies, staff, and medical care in general, contact the state agency:
Holly Hunter, Secretary
Florida Agency For Healthcare Adm.
1717 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308
· For comments about procedures, policies, staff, and medical care in general, contact the federal agency:
Mark Chassin, MD, President
The Joint Commission
One Renaissance Blvd.
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
· For comments about the actions of specific doctors and/or nurses, go to:
Dr. Ana M. Viamonte Ros, Secretary
The Florida Department of Health
2585 Merchants Row Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
The Florida Department of Health is the agency to which complaints about medical professionals (doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.) should be filed. Each person with a grievance needs to fill out the three-page form available at this internet website address:
This form covers the following areas:
- Quality of care
- Inappropriate prescribing
- Excessive tests or treatment
- Misdiagnosis of condition
- Failure to release patient records
- Insurance fraud
- Impairment/medical condition
- Advertising violation
- Mis-filled prescription
- Patient abandonment/neglect
The POA urges residents with any complaint about service at TVRH to file a formal complaint. By doing so, the hospital's staff will be put on notice that substandard care is unacceptable. Please file a complaint if you have had any bad experiences with TVRH. Otherwise, problems may continue.
POA Suggestions for Improvements
During this year, the POA Health Care Committee learned a lot about The Villages Regional Hospital (TVRH) by talking with patients of its Emergency Room and viewing their examination records. We have several suggestions for improvement. We would prefer to meet with TVRH management to discuss these ideas. But, management refuses to meet with us, and we thus have no choice but to present these suggestions in this paper.
At a recent meeting Lee Huntley, CEO of the Central Florida Health Alliance, boasted that The Villages Regional Hospital Emergency Room had reduced its wait time to three hours. Three hours is too long to wait if a patient has an impending heart attack or stroke. We encourage TVRH to have enough staff and facilities so that these highly urgent patients can be seen immediately.
We urge The Villages Regional Hospital Emergency Room to use the time the patient records on the Emergency Room sign-in sheet as the official time the patient enters the Emergency Room area. At present, TVRH uses the time that the Business Office enters the patient record on the computer system. We noted, especially at night, that many hours may have elapsed between the time the patient arrived at the Emergency Room and the time of the Business Office admission. This may account for the wide discrepancies between TVRH's record of admission and the patient's recall of wait times. This is a serious mis-statement of the official hospital/patient records.
We urge the hospital to monitor the competency of all professional personnel, including the medical staff. Like Villages residents, physicians and staff have come to The Villages from many places and may not have the advantage of up-dated health care knowledge. The POA Health Care Committee is comprised of physicians and nurses - we know how hard it is to keep current in medical treatment practices. On the other hand - we'd like to compliment those physicians and staff who obviously knew the best treatment practices and were dedicated to the welfare of their patients.
In allocating your budget for the coming year, please increase the budget for the Emergency Room and patient care areas and decrease the budget for advertising. Any hospital that can afford splashy ads on CNN ought to be able to afford an adequately staffed Emergency Room and other patient care areas. We estimate that TVRH annually spends $300,000-$500,000 on glitzy advertising and these funds should be re-directed at increasing the quality of patient care.
Computerized medical records with a computerized Information System link-up to all physician's offices and labs is an absolute necessity for our situation in The Villages. A lot of time and money is wasted by repeating tests in the Emergency Room that had been done a few hours earlier in a lab - but the lab is closed. Remember that some Villages residents do not have Medicare supplement insurance and have to pay for these costs out-of-pocket.
Make sure the Emergency Room is completely staffed at all hours with "on call" specialty physicians. We noted that many Emergency Room patients developed complications because no "on call" specialists were available to assist them.
Don't confuse hospital ambiance with hospital quality. To be sure, we love the piano playing in the hospital lobby and the friendly helpfulness of the volunteers. But these pleasant touches do not substitute for prompt high-quality health care.