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August 6th, 2009
03:22 PM ET

Don’t Let a Hospital Kill You

When Susan Gonzalez visited her father in the hospital, she noticed a nurse was about to give him a medicine. When she asked what it was, the nurse answered it was ampicillin, an antibiotic. Gonzalez told the nurse he was allergic to ampicillin, and just in the nick of time. “That could have been a fatal outcome,” says Gonzalez, who herself is a nurse in Austell, Georgia. As many as 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine, and some 99,000 people die each year from infections acquired in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For her Empowered Patient column this week, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen asked nurses for tips on how to stay safe in the hospital.


Filed under: Heidi Collins
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Mobius

    Heh no worries folks, soon the US Government, the same system that brought you Banking, Insurance and Auto bailouts (and the Motor Vehicle Administration) will take care of all of this for you.

    Nice knowin ya.

    August 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  2. susan

    Be honest.
    What is the date for the statistics? And,what is the denominator – how many admissions? Not necessarily how many patients. Each admission provides another potential problem.

    Anecdotes. Fine. But the question – this is considered a "sentinel event." So what happened? Was this a medication for the wrong patient? Was it written inappropriately? Was there a mention prior that the patient had the allergy? (Oh, and most allergies to penicillin and its derivatives are not life-threatening type 1 hypersensitivity reactions, but are not fun.)

    See if you can use a little more hyperbole.

    August 6, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  3. Mike

    It's pretty bad that you are putting yourself at risk going to the hospital to get better.

    August 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  4. David

    I have or a family member have had to wrestle with avoiding being given a drug that would cause and allergic reaction and with having to stand our ground when asking questions about treatment. Having said that the doctors and nurses at our local hospital were very receptive to our questions and comments, willing to explain treatments and approaches to treatment, and helpful in assisting us in understanding procedures, assessments, test results, etc. But asking these questions truly helps. And maybe the pt is here something I read in a Patient Safety pamplet. I think the pt was that you as a patient or as the family member of a patient are the best informed in some ways about your situation to let physicians and nurses know things about how you're feeling, your medications, medical record, experiences with reactions to medications, etc and so are the best positioned or very well positioned to help assure your safety or the safety of your loved one, family member as a patient. And making a list before you go to the doctor and consulting with concerned family members to put together that list helps focus your thoughts and better understand, attend to what a physician, nurse, tech, or other provider says about a possible assessment or treatment. You can note questions after a visit too.

    We've had to wrestle with these problems here, but I think if you don't just want to pay lip service to this topic, you have to hit the point that patient and their trusted family members can be the best help for the patient's safety. The point about standing your ground is a good one, and I've received just such a comment from a nurse and it helped me, but something that got me moving on this was that pamphlet on patient safety.

    August 7, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  5. Mrs. Eileen Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    The situation of Ms. Susan Gonzalez who visited her father in a hospital and she asked the nurse who was about to give her father a medicine which her father is allergic to ampicillin. This situation has become a usual situation in hospitals in the United States and even in Puerto Rico. People should be aware that 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine, and some 99,000 people die each year from infections acquired in the hospital according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is the CDC doing to stop this situation? My friend in Puerto Rico got 5 infections and one young kid die from the church I use to visit in Puerto Rico. We need to work more on the Empowerment of Patients. As CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains we need to ask nurses for tips on how to stay safe in the hospital. It is sad that we cannot think for a minute that we are safe at hospital.

    August 7, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  6. michael armstrong sr.

    With the new health care program increasing the need for more doctors and nurses with lower wages might increase lower skilled people increasing more insedents .

    August 7, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  7. Ken, Plano, TX

    I think the debate may be missing the point. We claim that the design of our health care system is good, yet it's overpriced and unreliable. Who's doing risk management for the health care system, and why are they doing such a lousy job?

    We know who's supposed to be doing the risk management function, because risk management is how successful insurance businesses make money, instead of losing it. Its the insurance industry that's failing us here.

    Good risk management would establish most, or all, of the reforms now proposed, because proactive wellness, preventive care, and low incidence of medical errors are all moneymakers, from a risk management perspective. All this debate is necessary primarily because the "health insurance" industry doesn't do what insurance businesses are supposed to do.

    August 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  8. greg

    Can we get some stricter dress code for hospital staff. so many times i have gone to the store or seen on buses or walking the streets nurses and doctors where their scrubs and lab coats to the corner store or to and from work. The nurses who are suppose to wear white shoes/sneakers are extremely dirty in some cases black as they service patients in the hospitals. its bad enough 99,000 die from infections but lets not add to the germs that already exist in a hospital.

    Can we get regulations for hospital work clothes are to be worn only at work not to and from work. Maybe also require hospitals to have them washed everyday not left hanging in the locker till the employee feels like washing them.

    August 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Mike Dunbar

    Heidi, I suggest CNN conduct a meeting of its own, invite a congressman that is pro healthcare and one that is against, doctors as well that are pro and against, people that cannot attend could email in questions, then have equally unbias audience, I have legitimate questions I would like to have answered, I am totally undecided, I have a healthcare plan but would like to know if it would be affected or considered income or taxed in any way. I also wonder if anyone has covered a town hall meeting where the congressman is against the healthcare plan, is his/her town hall meeting being as disruptive as ones shown on news.

    August 10, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  10. ken jones

    how can anybody, except for the medical,insurance&drug company's, possibly be against health care reform? president obama continuously says if you like what you have you won't have to change. lets think of the 40 million americans that have nothing.by the way i have great coverage thru the va
    and about that threat of being denied coverage if its government run. isn't that what we have now, only its the INSURANCE COMPANIES denying acoverage.
    and for all the special interest groups scaring everyone about how terrible the coverage is in canada or england i say, lets have a debate/forum.lets have a group of doctors/patients from canada & england on 1 side and a group of people opposed to reform on the other side.maybe that will answer alot of questions
    i don't understand how something SO IMPORTANT and personal can be divided along party lines

    August 10, 2009 at 10:23 am |
  11. Dan Cleavenger

    The most ludicrous rant about why health care should
    not be passed is the charge that government is too inept
    to manage it?
    Who manages medicare and medicaid?
    Whom do we trust to educate our children?
    Whom do we trust to guard our country?
    Whom do we call if our house is burning?
    Who delivers our mail?
    If you answereed "government" to each question, you are right.

    August 10, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  12. Rob Johnson

    Heidi, I am reading through some of the health care comments and find the dialog interesting & informative. It took me a while to figure out how to get to your email, and I imagine some others had the same problem. Maybe CNN could improve the web site by adding a link to all the reporters Bio-page or some sort of a drop-down menu to help people get here.

    I have several comments and opinions regarding what is happening across the country and in what is being played out in town hall meetings. My number one issue is the fact that our Representatives in DC, across the board, Dems & Repubs, do not want to take the time to listen and understand what “We The People Think” The health care debate is just one example of this. If we go back and look at Bail-Outs, and the dozens of other issues and expenditures that have been rammed through the House & Senate in the last year it is amazing and troubling. We have so many important things before us and can’t seem to fix anything before starting up a new project.

    The administration needs to re-focus on the economy and getting government spending under control. We truly are committing generational theft and it needs to end.

    August 10, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  13. Herb Armstrong

    Greetings; I'm a 54 year old male. I had a liver transplant 3 years ago. I have Medicare Part D. The co-pay costs of my medications are over $1000.00 monthly, quite a lot when I receive $1600.00 monthly. My life has been altered more by the medications and insurance companies than the transplant it self. Then we could get into the insanity I go through every January to try to choose the best Part D policy. We need dramatic change to the health care system now! Herb Armstrong

    August 10, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  14. Stephanie Brown-Montford

    Hey Heidi,

    Healthcare reform is long over due. In this economic climate I don't want my employer or insurance companies dictating whe or if I can see a doctor. Insurance Cobra policies are too expensive for someone who has lost a job or changing careers. I am so sick of hearing about the cost of this plan. The money we have already spent in Iraq and Afganistan has robbed the American people of quality healthcare. If we spent 50% of what we spent on war and military budgets (that kills people) on saving lives this reform could work and even be profitable, if managed properly. The current state of mental healthcare in our country is in a serious crisis. Prescription cost are insane. My daughter's medications without insurance cost is $700. for 30 pills ... not a joke. Quality healthcare is not only for the rich or persons that work for large corporations it is for all the people I hope Obama and Congress can pass a Universal healthcare bill soon.

    Have a great day,
    Stephanie from CT

    August 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Ashley macisaac

    Hi – we are watching in Canada.WE celebrate everytime we see how the Greatest Country inthe World -so called – America,fights over the most inane issue.You knowthe statement – Its the economy stupid- Its health care stupid.When you allow people to make profit off your health- you allow the devil to run your lives.Youhave a great govt ,and now arguably the best ever- under Obama,and he will go down as the man who made America fair again,not only around the world,but domestically.When you take care of your citizens first,then you can once again claim to be truly the greatest country in the world(because Canada is the greatest country in the Universe)!Profit based health care is as silly as Fox Friday night programming.Youhave enough money to war,to pomp and to go to the moon- what you can't pay for a pregnancy?

    August 12, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  16. Patrick in Madison

    I watched Specter's townhall meeting yesterday and the sheer level of Stupid was painful to sit through

    August 12, 2009 at 9:54 am |
  17. Karen J Porter

    Good morning. I am a 60 year old woman who has had Multiple Sclerosis for almost 8 years now. My Cobra insurance ran out a year ago in July of 2008. I began receiving Social Security Disability in July 08 after filing in March 2008. Since I am stuck with a pre-existing condition I am uninsurable now. I have to receive 24 disability checks before I can be entitled to Medicare benefits. I have another year to go. I also have been diagnosed with an anyersum on my aorta valve. Since I am under 65 and over age 60 there is a hole I am in and cannot get any care. I can get insurance through private sources or HIPPA and all cost to the tune of $500 to $714. a month, Hippa being the highest. Now when you only receive $523. a month disability to live on this is an impossible premium to meet. Also if you could afford it you cannot use it or collect on it until you have paid premiums for 1 year. I am from Springfield, Missouri and contacted every source including senators, representatives, congressmen, etc., including President Obama and Vice President Biden. The only person I ever heard a word from was Claire McCaskill telling me their department was sorry but they couldn't handle my problem at their level of government to contact my senator. The usual run around of "I don't want to mess with it". Now my point is all the issues they are addressing on Healthcare there hasn't been one issue regarding those of us who are in the "hole" of age limits who have no recourse or no where to turn. What in the world do you have to do to open their eyes to realize there are those of us out here too who have nothing and the present plans are NOT including those of us under 65 who are on disibility. WE NEED ATTENTION DRAWN TO OUR PROBLEMS WITH DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NO RECOURSE FOR MEDICAL CARE! How can you be expected to pay $500. a month or more for insurance when its your whole income??? Thank you for allowing me to comment. Sincerely, Karen Porter

    August 12, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  18. Shirley

    Heidi;
    Healthcare Reform is a must, reason being the Insurance companies and the pharmacies together will make sure you spend all your money paying for their plan.
    I retired from one of the biggest Insurance company on the west coast which merged with another big Insurance company on the east coast, and together they are a GAINT Insurance company. Every year i get a
    letter from this Company telling me due high Healthcare coast they will have to increase my plan payment, this not counting the $93.00 dollar i pay for a red,white&blue medicare card that i can't use because my Insurance comp. has issue me a Medicare advantage card which i pay $53.00 dollar per year.
    This is not counting my co-pay for drugs, and Dr. visits.
    I pay more for my insurance as a retiree, than i paid when i work.
    This is no good, Healthcare Reform is needed ASAP,!!!!!!!!!!

    August 12, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  19. Shirley

    Heidi;
    I made a mistake in my first comment, that $53.00 per month to my Insurance, and $93. 00 a month is deducted form my Benefit check.
    I i cannot use the genric brand, i have to pay 50.00 dollar for 60 pills a month for my eyes, and 15.00 dollar for genric this is a lot of money
    to pay out when you retired from this insurance company. What say you?.

    August 12, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  20. Sandy Greis

    CNN ran an ad this morning, sponsored by "60 Plus", stating that "Medicare will be cut Billions" to pay for the new health care plans and that the Government will decide who lives or dies.

    August 12, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  21. Shirley

    These mistakes happen all the time in hospitals. Just put a senior citizen in one and watch out. My Mom has been in several times and I have witnessed it. The nurses spend most of there time on the computers and in meetings. If a patient doesn't know the right meds to take, they are in trouble. My Mom was given insulin shots 3 days in a row. They would draw blood 5 min. after lunch and say she was a diabetic. She has never had shots before and has not for 2 years since. I arrived one day just as she was about to get a shot and stopped it. Now with medicare cutbacks, it is going to be even worse.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  22. gk

    My thoughts about health care reform is very simple. U.S. economy is a competitive market. Any sector of U.S. economy such as financial, mortgage, manufacture, pharmaceutical, and so on as well as health care insurance industry should be competitive. Monopolistic system existed in 1960s. Heidi, can you please tell health care insurance industry the story of "Who Moved My Cheese?" U.S. health care insurance industry would accept the change so that they can get New Cheese. As wind of change is blowing whether insurance industry follow the wind direction, it is possible to get New Cheese. But if they don't they will loose their Old Cheese as well as New Cheese.

    August 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm |

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