In a recent Courier Journal article, it was revealed that the state of Kentucky is currently investigating whether patient care is being compromised at University of Louisville Hospital due to hospital understaffing caused by severe staff cuts issued by KentuckyOne Health, the healthcare corporation that currently owns the hospital.
According to Dr. J. David Richardson, hospital surgeon and president of the American College of Surgeons, dozens of nurses were laid off within one week, followed by additional cuts throughout the entire staff during the years 2014 and 2015. The cuts were made in an attempt to make up for the hospital’s $218 million deficit.
The original staffing cuts may have made sense in 2014, but that’s certainly not the case in 2016. Richardson states that the cuts caused a “major patient staffing issue” and are “destroying the hospital.” On June 24, 2016, Beth Fisher, a spokesperson for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, said that its office currently has an open investigation of the hospital.
KentuckyOne spokesperson David McArthur said in a statement that the company is committed to quality and safety and has been investing “significant resources to continually improve key areas of the hospital performance”. In staff interviews, however, a very different story is told.
Karen Christopher, University of Louisville associate professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Sociology, interviewed 20 hospital nurses between August 2015 and February 2016. She found that 19 nurses felt chronic understaffing harmed their ability to provide quality care. A specific example was given—nurses were required to care for 5-6 patients who needed one-on-one care at a time.
According to a newspaper report in June 2016, Richardson stated that Intensive Care patients at University of Louisville Hospital were not always transferred to another area of the hospital when they should have been due to the fact that—despite the hospital having plenty of empty beds—there weren’t enough nurses. He also stated that the hospital was particularly understaffed at night. E.R. patients that came in overnight often had to wait until 9 or 10 the next morning before being seen.
In April, the U of L Hospital received a “D” grade from the Leapfrog Group, an independent organization that assigns grades to over 2,500 U.S. hospitals a year based on the occurrence of medical accidents, errors, infections, and injuries. Two other Louisville hospitals also received D marks—Jewish and Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital—both of which are also owned by KentuckyOne.
The Inherent Risks of Hospital Understaffing
The Leapfrog Group, founded by medical experts and employers, states that selecting the right hospital can reduce a patient’s risk of death by up to 50%. Here at Thomas Law Offices, we know that statistic to be true. One of the largest contributing factors to most Louisville medical malpractice lawsuits is hospital understaffing. When a hospital is severely understaffed as University of Louisville Hospital seems to be, nurses and other staff members simply can’t provide a quality level of patient care.
Hospital understaffing leads to doctors, nurses, and staff members who are overworked and overstressed, potentially leading to negligence and consequently life-threatening misdiagnoses, surgical errors, birth injuries, medication errors, and more—even costing lives in some cases. It’s important to note that these doctors, nurses, and hospital staff members are not necessarily at fault for these terrible mistakes, either. The fault often lies with the corporations who make staff cuts due to budgetary reasons.
It’s a simple fact—most U.S. hospitals in 2016 are understaffed, especially in regards to nurses. Additional staff cuts are not the answer. Hiring temporary employees helps, but isn’t a permanent solution. Hiring additional permanent staff members and ensuring they’re able to comfortably provide quality patient care is.
If you or anyone you love has been injured due to causes you believe may be tied to hospital understaffing or medical malpractice, you have a legal right to find out what actually happened and why. If the hospital staff or the corporation behind the hospital were at fault, you deserve to receive compensation as well as send a message to major corporations stating that quality patient care must become the healthcare industry’s #1 priority.
Louisville, KY personal injury lawyer Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices is more than happy to help you do just this, thereby enabling you to receive peace of mind as well as a speedier recovery. Contact our Louisville office for more information or a free case consultation.