Feds look to reduce medical errors in hospitals

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week announced a new federal initiative aimed at preventing medical errors and hospital acquired infections. Experts say that preventable medical errors result in 200,000 deaths each year across America and many more injuries.

The Early Show on CBS recently recounted the tragic story of a family that is seeking to raise awareness of medical errors in hospitals. A husband and wife lost their newborn child just six weeks after the baby was born prematurely. While in the neonatal intensive care unit, the infant was mistakenly given sodium 60 times the normal dose in his IV bag. The parents have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit related to the fatal mistakes in the ICU.

The day the baby was given an overdose of sodium in the neonatal ICU, blood tests revealed the infant had high levels of sodium in his body. Doctors ordered that the baby be checked, but nothing was done for eight hours. The boy reportedly died of cardiac arrest six weeks later related to the overdose. The family reportedly claims in its lawsuit the hospital was negligent in caring for the premature infant, the fatal mistake was preventable and could have been corrected had the hospital properly cared for the child in ICU.

Dr. Lee Sacks, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Advocate Healthcare says the hospital takes accountability for the “tragedy leading to the death of the baby.” He says the organization “has been transparent and disclosed everything we know about it in a commitment to improve care.”

Don Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cautions that medical errors continue to occur in this country. He says between one out of every three to seven hospital admissions result in some type of injury to the patient.

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