The Chicago Tribune ran a story this weekend on the significant costs of a lack of focus on patient safety in Cook County’s public hospital. According to the story, the public coffers are set to pay more than $24 million to amend for many different instances of malpractice that caused serious injuries and death to local residents. It is a reminder of the importance to put even more pressure on medical providers to make real changes to keep community members safe. Not only is it critical to prevent the harm, but it is a practical way to save money by limiting damage and the health care costs of dealing with complications from preventable errors.
Med Mal in Cook County
The most significant portion of the latest payments stem from one tragic case involving a surgical error inflicted on a local toddler. The young boy was at Stroger Hospital in 2009 in order to have surgery to correct an undescended testicle. However, caregivers at the facility allegedly made grievous errors in his care, ultimately causing irreversible brain damage. While recovering from the operation the child suffered an attack and his heart stopped. Yet, medical professionals failed to enact CPR until five minutes after his heart stopped. The boy did not have a pulse for the next fifteen minutes, though he was eventually revived.
As many victims of medical malpractice know, timing is critical in these cases. For this young toddler, the five minute delay meant that oxygen was deprived to his brain for an extended period of time. This caused significant brain damage that will significantly alter the rest of his life. A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed, and a settlement was reached with both parties. The settlement was structured to provide for the extensive care that they boy will need for the remainder of his life. All told, the settlement is for about $20 million.
A second case involves a woman who ultimately died after an infection was not properly treated. The woman was in the hospital in 2008 for cancer treatments. She developed the infection while at the facility, but the problem was not properly treated. As a result it spread, causing significant complications which required multiple surgeries and amputations. Unfortunately, the woman did not survive the ordeal and she passed away in 2010. Her family eventually filed a med mal lawsuit against the facility which was settled for $2.4 million.
Yet another case against the county was filed by the family of a man who died after not receiving proper medical care while in the county jail. The man allegedly had an external fixator attached to his arm. An infection developed at the site of the infection, but he did not receive proper care for it. As a result, sepsis developed and he passed away.
The Cook County Board is set to vote on dispersing the funds for these cases (and one other)–all filed against Stroger Hospital. The payments would be made by a self-insurance fund which exists for such situation and was created by taxpayers money.
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