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Medicare looks at personal injury suffered in medical facilities

A recent study by the inspector general of Medicare revealed that almost 22,000 patients suffered injury and over 1,500 died in skilled nursing facilities across America within a single month. These figures are substantially higher than the number of deaths and injuries from medical negligence in a hospital setting. Skilled nursing facilities offer care and rehabilitation services to people hospitalized for three or more days. With hospitals looking to reduce patient stays, these facilities have stepped in to fill a possible void in medical care.

There are over 15,000 skilled nursing installations across America with approximately 90 percent providing long-term care as certified nursing homes. About one in every five Medicare patients hospitalized in 2011 also received care in a skilled nursing facility. The kind of injuries reported in skilled nursing facilities includes medication errors, infections, wrongful death and other forms of harm.

Working in conjunction with the inspector general's office during the month-long study, doctors reviewed the files of 653 random patients. During their review, the doctors allegedly discovered 11 percent of the patients experienced temporary harm, 22 percent suffered lasting harm and 1.5 percent died from negligence or the substandard quality of care received in these facilities. The investigating doctors also found almost 60 percent of the errors could have been prevented and more than half of the patients harmed had to go back in the hospital at a cost of approximately $208 million.

Some patient advocates claim the study's findings confirm the personal injury and wrongful death reports they have received from former skilled nursing patients or their family members. Even though individual states perform annual inspections on behalf of Medicare, the study seems to indicate there is room for improvement. While advocates hope the inspector general's report helps improve the state of medical care in America, victims of nursing home neglect, skilled nursing errors or medical malpractice can also turn to a qualified personal injury attorney for restitution.

Source: Pro Publica, "One Third of Skilled Nursing Patients Harmed in Treatment" Marshall Allen, Mar. 03, 2014

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