Inspection Records at Hospitals Often Kept from the Public

Inspection Records at Hospitals Often Kept from the Public
Apr 21, 2017

If you ask the typical hospital if it has a good history of safety inspections, they will probably tell you just that – “it is good.” What you will not get is anything more specific or less subjective. And you almost certainly will not actually get a chance to see those safety records at all, according to recent investigations.

Sweeping Hospital Inspections Under the Rug

Last year, Americans from coast-to-coast were shocked to find that medical errors in hospitals were one of the top causes of deaths and catastrophic injuries in the country. Some studies suggested that medical negligence was actually the leading cause of death in certain age groups, such as newborns or elders over 85. However, hospital inspection records generally will not reflect these reports because the records are stashed away where no one can find them.

Only one-in-ten hospitals are not controlled by a private healthcare company or conglomerate. Many of these corporations have used legal loopholes that allows them to keep safety inspections confidential, as if it is a business secret, rather than a matter of public concern. This behavior of inspecting but not sharing leads many to believe, and possibly likely so, that accrediting corporations are more concerned about the hospital’s wellbeing since the hospital is their client, rather than the patients who needs medical help. In a 2002 Chicago Tribune article, it was revealed that an accreditor approved the safety conditions of one of its hospitals despite other, third-party inspections finding numerous issues that could cause surgery errors, staff miscommunication, dangerous infections, and more.

Inconsistency in Government Oversight

There are federal agencies that are tasked with reviewing and rating the safety of public nursing homes through analysis of their safety inspections. If issues are found, the nursing home can be penalized and forced to make corrections. Yet, for reasons that are not entirely clear through any legislation or regulations, hospitals can almost-always hide inspection reports from both the public and these agencies.

There is one federal agency that is looking to make significant changes in how hospital inspection records are handled, though. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is attempting to make it standard procedure for accreditation companies to distribute inspections to the public, or at least remove any privacy prerequisites from accessing them. Patients who need to find a hospital for treatment deserve to know if the location is safe and up to code. Otherwise, they are ultimately forced into making a largely uneducated decision. Some speculate that this change alone could start to reduce the number of medical malpractice deaths annually.

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