Archive for Sunday, September 10, 2000

Nurse errors that lead to deaths charted

September 10, 2000


— Poorly trained or overwhelmed nurses are responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries each year in the nation's hospitals, according to a Chicago Tribune investigation.

Since 1995, at least 1,720 hospital patients have died and 9,548 others have been injured because of mistakes made by registered nurses across the country, the Tribune found in an analysis of 3 million state and federal records.

The records include cases of patients getting overdoses of medication, vital care being delayed for hours and nurses performing medical procedures without proper training.

The Tribune report, which focused on nursing mistakes, follows claims made in a wider-reaching 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine that estimated medical mistakes kill anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 hospitalized Americans each year.

Mandatory overtime and 16-hour shifts have led to a shortage of nurses willing to work at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, said registered nurse Kathy Cloninger, who has worked there for seven years.

"I wake up every day and hope I don't kill someone today," Cloninger told the Tribune. "Every day I pray: God protect me. Let me make it out of there with my patients alive."

Nursing staffs have been the first target for cutbacks at hospitals where profits have been squeezed by managed care programs and falling federal Medicaid reimbursements, said Rick Wade of the American Hospital Assn.

Under a cost-saving program in at least two Chicago hospitals, housekeeping staff assigned to clean rooms were pressed into duty as aides to dispense medicine, the Tribune found.


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