The lawsuit against the Hospital that infected my father was dropped on March 26th, on a technicality. The technicality was a misunderstanding and had nothing to do with the facts. The facts are and always will be that Dad’s Hospital had a MRSA outbreak. He was the 3rd of three patients who became infected in his Hospital in a month’s time and all three died.
Who wins and who loses in Dad’s medical harm case.
The first thing I’d like to do is thank my attorney for taking Dad’s case. Dad asked me to do this, when he found out that his Hospital had infected him, and my attorney did this work on a contingency. He is a saint for doing this because most lawyers would not take an Hospital Infection case. Even though patients die every day because of Hospital Acquired infections, these cases are notoriously difficult to win. My attorney worked for me for free because he sees and understands that injustice. I am eternally grateful to him for taking Dad’s case.
Of course the biggest loser was Dad. He lost his strength, ability to walk and eat, his independence, and what remained of his health. He went from being upright, walking with a walker, and back in his own home after 12 days of Hospital rehabilitation, to being a completely bed bound patient. He lost it all overnight. Then ultimately, he lost his life. When he died, he was in a stark lonely nursing home isolation room. That was the last place on earth that he wanted to be. His death was a release from loneliness, isolation and suffering.
My family also lost. My brothers and I lost our father, and all of our kids lost their grandfather. My mother lost her love of 62 years. Although Dad was disabled, my parents had lived independently in their own home and they looked after each other. They were inseparable, except by death. My mother now lives a very solitary life…alone in the home that Dad built for them. I live 70 miles from her and my brothers live even further away. Her life has continued to shrink since Dad left. When we talk on the phone, or visit, her sadness and loneliness comes through. Yet, that is her home, that she shared with Dad, and she is not at all interested in leaving it to live closer to me.
Then there is the monetary loss. Medicare and private insurance paid almost $50,000 for my fathers care at the end. Around 2/3 of that was for care needed because he became infected in his hospital. Those were costs that I believe should have been the Hospital’s loss. Even though they failed to protect my father from infection, they got paid a lot, in full. I guess that means the Hospital was a winner, of money at least.
When my father went into the nursing home for 9 weeks, my parents paid out of pocket for that. If he had not been infected in the Hospital, it is likely that he would have continued to gain strength after rehabilitation and been able to continue living at home with my mother. My parents, again, lost financially, around $17,000 for long term care. That was an out of pocket expense to my parents, an expense that was again a result of the infection he contracted while rehabilitating from a minor ankle fracture.
So, it appears that the biggest losers were my father, my mother, and my family. But, there were other losers too.
The Hospital that cared for my father also lost. They lost my family’s respect, admiration and trust. It was in that Hospital that I started my nursing career. According to the questions and comments of their defense attorney (who represented them and spoke for them), they seemed to think that my father’s infection was his own fault. That makes me very angry. They kept the infections in their facility a secret, so my family couldn’t possibly have known the risk my father faced. Had they been more transparent, we could have made a more informed choice for his care. From my observations they hadn’t changed anything to prevent MRSA infections, even though 2 other beloved seniors from the community had already died with MRSA before my father became infected. Those other two families suffered great loss too.
The hospital also lost the money that they paid their “super” attorney. I wonder how much the Hospital lost to this lawyer. The attorney’s legal tactic seemed to be 1. place blame on Dad for his Hospital Acquired MRSA infection, and 2. belittle/discredit me and my volunteer patient safety work. Rather than the Hospital admitting fault, apologizing, fixing the problem and offering my family emotional and financial support, they paid the attorney (probably a ton of money) to further alienate my family. I pity any attorney who makes a living by attempting to beat down victims and their families, and for facing a job like that every day…..people like that seem ethically and morally deficient to me. So, actually, in my opinion, that type of attorney is a loser too! I also pity the Hospital for not seeing how much more constructive it would have been to work with me and my family to come to resolution and to welcome us to work on the solutions, rather than further alienating us.
My father’s community lost too. They lost 3 beloved seniors, who had worked, loved and raised families there. They were cherished by their families, their churches and their friends and neighbors.
What could everyone have done differently? The Hospital could have made aggressive changes immediately after the first of those 3 beloved MRSA victims became infected. The changes are outlined in the CDC recommendations, which they claimed they followed. If they had actually done what they said they did, they could have prevented my father’s infection and he could have lived longer and independently. They could have been transparent about the infections, so my family would have been fully informed before we chose where my father would get rehabilitation for his broken ankle. My family could have engaged more aggressively and asked more questions about the Hospitals infection rates. We also could have spent more time at his bedside and been watchdogs to be sure that every single person who touched him had washed their hands. The housekeepers could have cleaned the rooms better. The doctors could have made more effort to give the right antibiotics by doing appropriate cultures and sensitivities of Dad’s sputum. They could have begun screening patients for MRSA immediately after the first victim became infected in their hospital, to be sure that anyone carrying the organism was kept separate from those who did not carry it.
My father definitely could have been better protected from infection, and he could have lived longer.
When we get right down to it, the only one who ends up winning from this case is the Hospital’s attorney….his bank account is fatter. The rest of us involved have all suffered a great loss. I feel badly for everyone who lost, but I can’t feel sorry for the’ Hospital’s attorney. Maybe I will find a way to understand him and feel some compassion for him in the future. I just hope for his sake that it doesn’t involve him losing a family member because of preventable infection. I want everyone, including the opposing lawyer’s family, and the Hospital that infected my father, to benefit from my work to stop Hospital Acquired Infections and Healthcare harm. I fully intend to move on and make progress with this work.