This morning the Portland Press Herald had this article on the front page. The high numbers of vulnerable sick and injured patients who die not because of their illness, but because of preventable harm is just not acceptable. It makes me crazy that 1/4 to 1/2 million people die unnecessarily every year in the US. Dad died in 2009, after his hospital infected him with MRSA, but he was not counted in any of the voluminous data that I read. He suffered a great deal and died within several weeks of the infection.
I have worked, as a volunteer, in Maine and nationally since Dad’s death, to help stop this epidemic of needless deaths. Just last week, on May 4, there was a Patient Safety conference in Augusta Maine sponsored by the Maine Sentinel events team. I asked several times for the agenda and details for this event, so I could register and attend. None were sent. Then I was told that there was such an overwhelming response to this event that it was “sold out”. I could only attend if there was a cancellation. There were no cancellations. I was very disappointed because the patient’s voice is essential to any discussions about them or about Patient Safety. So I asked again for an agenda so I could advise the organizers about where it would be good for them to include the patient’s voice. None was received. Since I got nowhere with this, I wrote to the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Resources of Maine, and expressed my disappointment that the State would have such a conference without inclusion of the patient’s voice. I would be very surprised, but pleased to hear back from our Commissioner.
Coincidentally, on May 4, the very day that I was excluded from a Maine Patient Safety conference that was held about an hour away from my home, a reporter from the Portland Press Herald called me because of a recent report from Dr Marty Makary, of Johns Hopkins, that healthcare harm is the third leading cause of death. This was not news to me, but I was certainly happy to have the opportunity to talk with this bright reporter. He also sent a photographer to my home and this became a front page article on May 7, today. I am very grateful to this reporter and his newspaper for recognizing the importance of awareness on this issue.
We all know the old saying “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. Well apparently, there is more than one way to get the word out on Medical errors and preventable healthcare harm. I missed the opportunity to bring the patient’s voice to the Patient Safety conference in Augusta, but my voice was shared with thousands of others on the front page of the Portland Press Herald this morning. Although this is an unpleasant and for some an unpopular subject, all of us, as a society must talk about this openly and often, and demand better.