“Safety advocates said that without access to public data, it has been too easy for hospitals to excuse poor outcomes by blaming mothers’ health problems.”
Hospitals Blame Mothers When Things Go Wrong
A new study by USA Today has uncovered that hospitals are failing mothers of all demographics during childbirth. White, black, insured, uninsured, in wealthier zip codes and in poorer ones, hospitals across the country are allowing an alarming rate of serious complications, higher than ever and the highest of any industrialized nation.
According to recent data from the CDC, 700 mothers a year die from childbirth complications in the U.S., while another 50,000 are injured. Black mothers are dying at a rate 3-4 times higher than white or hispanic women and are twice as likely to have a severe complication.
Although hospitals report deaths and many report complications to the state, there is no federal requirement mandating hospitals to publicly share data surrounding birth complication and death rates. With this loophole in holding providers accountable, hospitals are pointing to various factors outside of their control to explain the high rate of complications and maternal deaths in this country.
- Maternal obesity
- Maternal high blood pressure
- Poor lifestyle choices than impact overall maternal health
- Lack of prenatal care due to insurance
According to USA Today’s analysis of 1,027 hospitals in 13 states, these frequently blamed reasons for complications and death may be a cop out to excuse making systemic changes that lead to better, quicker diagnoses and treatment of mothers suffering through complications during childbirth.
Study Finds 120 Hospitals in 13 States with Higher than Average Complication Rates
While it is impossible to separate poor prenatal health from birth complications, there is also new data showing that the likelihood of complications cannot simply be chalked up to poverty or race.
USA Today examined billing records of 7 million births at 1,027 hospitals in 13 states (CA, FL, KY, LA, MD, NE, NY, PA, RI, TX, VT, WA, WV) and found that 1 in 8 hospitals has a higher maternal complication rate than the 1.4% national average. 120 hospitals were twice as likely to have patients endure blood transfusions, hysterectomies, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and other complications.
Hospital with Previously “On Watch” OB Residency Program Focus of Multiple Lawsuits
One hospital in New Orleans served as the focus of USA Today’s story due to the number of settled and currently pending lawsuits, coupled with the fact that in each circumstance a medical resident’s alleged failure to quickly diagnose, treat or call for help led to serious consequences and even death for their patients. This facility, Touro Infirmary Hospital, has been the birthing site of at least 5 different women who have either died or suffered serious trauma after allegedly botched deliveries.
Jenny Nedopak suffered a uterine rupture after medical residents attempted to repeatedly yank her baby from her body. She ultimately had a C-Section that led to a uterine rupture and serious hemorrhage. Residents only called a supervising physician when they realized how serious the bleeding was.
Shantel Smith, already a mother of 4, lost her baby, her own fingers, both her legs, and endured a hysterectomy after residents failed to diagnose an overwhelming infection.
Felicia West seized after her rising blood pressure was repeatedly dismissed by physicians as not important. She died.
Jessiffi Francois died from blood clots in her lungs, the very same condition that Serena Williams faced following her baby’s birth. Ms. Francois had been on medication for the condition during her pregnancy and also following the delivery in the hospital. She was sent home without medication.
Nicole Phillips spent 19 months in a coma after she stopped breathing the day after she delivered her baby. Her lawsuit argues that medical residents at Touro failed to recognize obvious signs of respiratory distress. She died.
In each of the 5 cases against Touro, medical residents were the primary physicians serving these mothers. USA Today uncovered that the OB residency program at Touro has spent at least 2 different time periods under scrutiny from the group that provides accreditation. The program was on probation from 2005-2007 and was on “Warning” from February 2018 until just last month.
Where You Go Matters
In response to the data unearthed by USA Today, Touro told the news publication that “Lifestyle diseases, the high cost of healthcare, delaying or non-compliance with medical treatment, limited care coordination, poor health, high rates of poverty and high rates of morbidity are all realities of our State and community.”
Again, a hospital blamed mothers instead of taking a strong look internally at the processes, programs, and policies happening within their own facility. This response is shameful when considering that USA Today compared mothers from one of New Orleans’ poorest zip codes between 2014-2017. Women who went to Touro to deliver had a delivery complication rate of 4%, while women from that same zip code who delivered at other hospitals had a 1.3% rate of complication. This held true even when comparing race and insurance status.
The bottom line is this: USA Today’s sampling found that these 120 hospitals with higher than average birth complication rates served mothers of all backgrounds. There was no indicator that race or insurance made a difference in who had a heathy delivery and who didn’t. The rate at which mothers are dying is disturbing. The rate at which black mother are dying is even more so. However, ALL hospitals must do better. Whether it’s strengthening training in recognizing the indicators and quick treatment of seizures, heart attacks, strokes, hemorrhages, blood clots, and infections or punishing hospitals with higher than average rates, something must be done.
No mother should have to fear going into labor and never coming home.
Levin & Perconti: Attorneys for Mothers Injured in Childbirth
We are Levin & Perconti. For nearly 3 decades, our Chicago personal injury firm has focused on bringing justice to those injured by negligent doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, individuals, and businesses. We have recovered over half a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients, including numerous record-setting awards.
You have nothing to lose by making the call for a FREE consultation now. If you suspect medical negligence may have contributed to a maternal injury or death, please contact Levin & Perconti toll-free at 877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or by completing our online case evaluation form.