What Happens When Hospitals Put Profits Over Patients
We trust hospitals and other medical facilities to put our health first. We go to the hospital expecting quality medical care and safe, sanitary premises. Unfortunately, that trust is violated far too often, and patients pay the price.
NBC News recently reported on HCA Florida Bayonet Point, a Florida hospital with some truly egregious safety violations, from patients waking up during surgery to cockroaches in the operating room. When more than a dozen surgeons were asked, "Is this a dangerous place to practice?" their response was an unequivocal "yes."
While we'd like to believe that hospitals like this are an outlier, the truth is that putting profits over patients is an endemic problem in the healthcare industry. Medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States, and many of those errors are preventable. When hospitals cut corners to save money, they put patients in danger. That's why holding them accountable is so important.
How profit motives contribute to medical malpractice
Even at ostensibly "nonprofit" hospitals, prioritizing profits over patients is a huge problem, as the New York Times has reported. Many decisions motivated by profits can contribute directly or indirectly to medical malpractice, including:
- Failure to maintain the premises or medical equipment. Procedures performed using outdated or poorly maintained equipment have a higher chance of causing harm to patients, as do procedures performed in poorly maintained facilities. There is also a high risk of infection, including life-threatening bacteria such as MRSA, in poorly sanitized hospitals.
- Cutting back staffing to reduce expenses. Hospitals that cut staff or replace employees with contractors may fail to adequately treat patients or implement safety best practices. Understaffed facilities have overworked employees, and overworked and exhausted healthcare workers are more likely to make mistakes.
- Inadequately monitoring patients. In understaffed facilities, patients are more likely to slip through the cracks. For instance, if nurses have to divide their attention between monitoring patients' vital signs and administrative tasks like answering the phone, the danger to patients increases dramatically.
- Turning a blind eye to malpractice. Some hospitals will overlook malpractice claims against individual doctors or surgeons if they drive significant revenue for the hospital.
- Creating a culture of silence. Conversely, it's far too common for hospitals and medical organizations to retaliate against doctors and nurses who dare to speak out about threats to patient safety or testify against other doctors in malpractice cases.
The emphasis on profits also leads healthcare organizations to prioritize growth over improving care at existing facilities. As the NBC News article said of HCA: "Increasing admissions by adding 102 new beds seems more important than repairing broken equipment in the existing building, eradicating pests in the operating room, or hiring staff in the emergency department."
The importance of pursuing accountability for medical malpractice
The only realistic way to force hospitals and medical organizations to prioritize patient safety is to hold them financially accountable for hurting patients. Medical malpractice claims not only help individual patients and their families rebuild their lives after being harmed but also send a strong message that putting patients at risk will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. Medical malpractice cases require extensive resources, trial experience, and willingness to keep fighting. We're proud to do this work because we care about helping patients and improving standards of care in Columbus, Charleston, and throughout Ohio and West Virginia.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one due to medical malpractice, you need to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC today for a free and confidential consultation.