Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Was your hospital fall listed as a "never event?"

Even though hospitals have signs in strategic locations warning about the possibility of a patient taking a fall, this kind of accident happens on a daily basis. Patients may fall because they felt woozy getting out of bed or because the freshly mopped floor was slippery.

Some patiens survive such falls without harm. But if they suffered a lasting injury it may be classed as a medical error, and they may be entitled to compensation from the medical facility.

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The "never event" explained

Data compiled by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reveals that up to 20 percent of all patients fall at least once during a stay in the hospital. As many as one-fourth of elderly patients who fall will die from the fall itself or related complications.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services takes the stance that hospital falls are preventable, and as a result, Medicare will not reimburse hospitals for subsequent treatment that the victims require. It is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that has branded patient falls in hospitals as "never events," meaning that these are medical errors that should never happen when staff adhere to fall risk protocols and other precautions.

Injuries resulting from falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 800,000 people a year are hospitalized as the result of a fall. The most serious result of a fall is a head injury. Nurses who are on the scene to help someone who has fallen are instructed not to raise the patient's head and to wait for a physician who can make a proper assessment.

Sprains and broken bones are frequent injuries, as well: hip fractures, ankle injuries, broken wrist or elbow. After an injury, the fear of falling can have a cascading effect; the person avoids walking and activity, leading to muscle weakness and (ironically) a greater risk of falling again.

What causes hospital patients to fall?

Hospital floors can become very slippery from spilled liquids or recent cleaning. There may be hospital equipment in the room or debris on the floor that gets in the way of a patient. Poor lighting in hospital rooms can contribute to falls, especially if the patient already has poor vision.

Sometimes patients become confused, not remembering where they are, especially when they first awake. They may try to get out of bed when they are are weak from surgery or illness. Many patients are also given sedatives or antidepressants that may make them unsteady on their feet. Patients are at risk for falling when they are alone. Nurses may not be nearby; they may be in another room or down the hall at their nursing station.

The doctors and nurses have a duty to assess patients for fall risk, especially if the peson is elderly, physically frail, medicated or groggy from surgery.

Building a case for medical malpractice

If a patient is injured from a fall while in the hospital, there may be a combination of factors that contributed, including negligence on the part of the medical professionals and the hospital. The patient or family members can seek advice from an attorney experienced with medical malpractice. The attorney will review the facts carefully to see how strong the case might be. A patient may be able to seek compensation because of this "never event."

Source: 20 percent of hospital patients fall (PRweb)

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