NJ hospital report shows improvements but still too many mistakes

When people in Milltown, New Jersey, visit the hospital for anything from routine tests to emergency treatment, they expect to receive attentive and expert care. While this is often the case, unfortunately, sometimes patients fall victim to mistakes, negligence and other forms of medical malpractice, which can have permanent and even deadly consequences.

The New Jersey Hospital Association recently released an analysis of the performance of New Jersey hospitals in 2013. Overall, the report concluded that hospitals showed improvements, preventing more infections and injuries than they did in 2012, according to a Star-Ledger Tribune article. Still, the specific figures indicate that visiting the hospital may still put New Jersey residents at needless risk.

Troubling statistics on hospital performance

There is a wide range of preventable injuries that can occur in hospitals. The report surveyed the incidence of 13 types of injuries or illnesses, including:

  • Blood clots.
  • Birth trauma.
  • Bed sores.
  • Hospital-acquired infections.

The report states that, on average, 18 million people are treated annually in New Jersey hospitals. Viewed over this scale, statistics that seem reasonable become alarming. For instance, falls are the leading cause of death and injury among older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital report found that in 2013 there were .49 falls per 1,000 patients - or more than 8,000 falls over the course of the year.

Other statistics released in the report are worrisome without any extra analysis. For example, the rate of patients readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge was 19.8 percent. This suggests that nearly 1 in 5 patients were sent home prematurely or with new health problems that had not yet become apparent.

Unfortunately, statistics like these are not so surprising, considering recent reports that deaths resulting from medical mistakes may be more common than previously believed. A study published in 2013 estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 people die annually from preventable harm that occurs in a hospital setting, according to Scientific American. This estimate is more than double an Institute of Medicine estimate widely cited in the past, and it would make hospital errors the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

New Jersey patients may not be able to protect themselves against medical errors and negligence by recognizing that the risk exists. However, they can protect their rights by understanding how to proceed in a medical malpractice case.

Seeking compensation for medical injuries

Anyone who suffers an injury while receiving medical care should consider speaking with a lawyer to determine whether the incident provides grounds for a malpractice case. Victims of malpractice may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, changes in quality of life and future wage loss.

New Jersey observes a statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. A claim must be made within two years of the date that an injury becomes apparent. Anyone who has experienced a medical care-related injury should make sure to consult with an attorney about legal options soon after the injury, before it is too late to take legal action.