When Hospital Consultants Interfere with Patient Safeguards

By Peter DePaolis

Hospital Safety Lawyers for Residents of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas

Today, most hospitals rely heavily on outside consultants to help them maximize their profits and keep their doors open.

United Medical Center in Washington, D.C. currently uses Veritas of Washington to help them do just that. However, their outside consultant has recently gone under fire for potentially interfering with patient safety to increase profits.

UMC’s chief medical officer that oversaw the quality of care at the facility states that the consultant firm has disregarded patient safety to preserve their lucrative contracts. During a public hearing, it was announced that the firm’s employees repeatedly stopped attempts to increase patient safety – and some allegations had come forward that the consulting firm outright violated federal and District laws by telling doctors to admit patients overnight when there was no medical reason for doing so.

Numerous High-Profile Instances of Lapsed Patient Care in Greenbelt, MD and Surrounding Areas

One reason Veritas is under fire is their recent exposure in the news for a significant lapse in patient care. In fact, the D.C. Department of Health recently shut down the nursery and delivery rooms of the hospital because of dangerous medical errors for newborn and prenatal care.

Earlier in November, The Washington Post exposed details about the death of Warren Webb – a 47-year-old patient of the UMC long-term care facility. Webb died of a heart attack after crying out for help and being left on the floor by his nurse. The hospital avoided these details and left them out of their report, which allowed them to escape any formal investigations. Now, the hospital is under an investigation based on the Washington Post report.

Lapses in patient care and the overall safety judgments of the hospital have been linked back to Veritas and their employment decisions. Veritas eliminated the jobs of two key employees who oversaw patient care – and that began a deadly downward spiral.

Putting Profits above Patient Safety

When hospitals put their profits ahead of patient safety, preventable injuries are more likely to occur. Worse, more deaths could occur under that hospital’s care – such as the case of Webb at UMC.

Patient safety is becoming a global health crisis. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that one out of 10 patients is harmed while receiving care in a hospital.

The Devastating Facts about Patient Safety Everyone Should Know

  • According to the recent WHO numbers, one out of 10 patients may be harmed while staying in the hospital. These injuries can be caused by a range of adverse events and errors that are preventable.
  • Hospital infections now account for 14 out of 100 patients admitted to hospitals. In fact, many in developed countries will pick up a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) during their stay. Preventing these infections is relatively simple – and affordable.
  • Replacing unsafe injection devices have reduced the number of medication errors in developing and developed countries.
  • There are an estimated 234 million surgical operations that occur throughout the world each year. Surgical care, however, carries a significant risk to the patient. Surgical care is also the highest contributor to unnecessary disease, and 50 percent of the complications from surgery were avoidable.
  • WHO estimates that 20 to 40 percent of healthcare spending is wasted on poor quality care.

Recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are equally devastating.

  • The number of inpatient deaths has decreased by 8 percent, but the total number of hospitalizations has increased by 11 percent.
  • In 2000, 2005, and 2010, one-quarter of hospital deaths were patients ages 85 and older.
  • Hospital death rates have decreased, but from 2000 to 2010 there was a 17% increase in deaths associated with septicemia.
  • Patients who died in the hospital typically had a more extended hospital stay than those discharged earlier. On average, those who passed away stayed 7.9 days compared to the average 4.8-day stay for patients in 2010.

Holding Hospitals Accountable for Inadequate Care

It does not matter if the blame can be placed in-house or on a third-party consultant – when patient care is ignored, people can suffer serious injuries.

As a patient, you have the right to expect a high level of care when you are admitted to a hospital. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel are expected to use their skills, expertise, and judgment when providing you with that care.

When they breach their duty of care, and you suffer a severe injury, you can file a claim against the hospital.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Hospital – the Initial Steps

  1. Act Quickly – The most common mistake patients make is waiting too long to file their claim. You not only have a statute of limitations, which limits how long you have to file your complaint, but you also need to consider the evidence. The longer you wait, the less evidence is available – including potential witnesses that can back your statements.
  2. Speak with a Malpractice Attorney – Discuss your case with a malpractice attorney as soon as you expect that you are the victim of malpractice. You do not want to handle a malpractice claim on your own – these are very complicated cases that require the expertise of an attorney.
  3. Determine if Negligence was Present – An adverse medical outcome is not always negligence. Therefore, you must determine if there actually was negligence involved. Furthermore, your attorney must decide exactly who was negligent. In other words, they must decide whether it was the doctor, other staff, or the hospital itself.
  4. Obtain Copies of Medical Records – Your attorney needs copies of your medical records. Your medical records are the most crucial piece of evidence in this type of case, because they outline your care, and which professionals were assigned to your case.
  5. Determine Damages – After your attorney has considered the evidence and determined which parties might be at-fault, they will then calculate the amount of compensation you are entitled to. Compensation, known as damages, can include medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and funeral and burial costs (for wrongful death cases).

Speak with an Injury Advocate about Your Hospital Injury

Hospital injuries occur too often in the United States. When these errors are preventable, patients are left feeling betrayed by the medical care system.

If you or a loved one was injured because of a negligent hospital employee, hospital protocol, or physician, speak with an attorney from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today.

We have three office locations in District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. You can also contact us online with your questions.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.