MANHATTAN, NY (PIX11) –Jacqueline Bimbaum is still scarred over her father's death six years ago in a Manhattan Hospital.
"It's the worst thing he ever did," a grieving daughter said. "Because it killed him."
Bimbaum's recently retired 85-year-old dad opted for a hip replacement to more fully enjoy his new life. The surgery was a snap. But what he didn't bank on was getting sickened by a hospital-acquired infection.
"He got a MRSA, a staph infection," Bimbaum said.
One after another, then antibiotic after antibiotic. He needed open heart surgery to clear of its infection, then dialysis and ultimately "no hope."
"They said there was no hope and my sister and I had to make the decision to take him off life support," Bimbaum said.
And, sadly, the Bimbaum family is not alone.
Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said that about 440,000 people a year die from a preventable medical harm inside a hospital.
Consumer Reports undertook a sweeping study of why patients get sick inside hospitals.
According to the study, 1,000 people a day experience a preventable drug mistake, 29 percent of people hospitalized experience at least one medical error, and 20 percent of people felt they'd been discriminated against. Those who feel they rarely received respect are two-and-half times more likely to experience a medical error, the study found.
"When something happens like that, you get a hospital's acquired infection, the hospital staff will tell you, 'Well, there's nothing we can do,'" Peters said.
But that's not true. Hospitals also must be held accountable. In some ways, they are starting to be. And where it hurts -- in the wallet.
Medicare now reduces reimbursements when hospitals hurt patients -- by causing them to be re-admitted, frequently because mistakes were made. Private insurers are trying to do the same.
But there's a paradox: the sickest patients rack up the biggest bills, creating more profit for hospitals.
"The bills can be ten times, 50 times the bill of a regular person," Consumer Reports notes.
Locally, this is how well NY Hospitals are caring for their patients, based on how Consumer Reports scored them according to data about infections, complications and re-admissions:
St. Francis in Roslyn (64)
Hudson Valley in Westchester (58)
NYU Langone (55)
The lowest on the list:
Glen Cove Hospital (30)
Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville (29)
Kings County Hospital (24)
Some hospitals, though, have dramatically improved their scores by using simple but stringent protocols, for policies and practices as basic as hand-washing. Some facilities have even driven infection rates down to zero.
Yet, this still haunts Bimbaum to this day.
"The hand sanitizer outside his room was empty," she said. "Meant to keep hands clean? Right."
But patients can dramatically improve their chances of leaving the hospital alive by following these simple instructions:
Bring friends and family with you to the doctor
Make eye contact and be a person
Make sure your doctor always washes their hands before working on you
Bimbaum wished she'd stressed that more for her own father.
"It's really a crime, that people (who) shouldn't die at this point in their lives are dying," she said.
To read more, click here to visit Consumer Reporters' website.
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