Wouldn’t you know it. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States ended up in Texas. Writes ABC News:
Even though a sick patient later diagnosed with Ebola told an emergency room nurse at a Texas hospital that he had recently traveled from West Africa, the nurse failed to pass on that information to other hospital staff, and that man was released from the hospital with antibiotics, officials said today.
The first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. was initially sent home after seeking care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for symptoms consistent with the virus on Sept. 26, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, experts are asking why he wasn't immediately isolated.
While these “experts” scratch their heads wondering how this could happen, perhaps it’s time they became familiar with a few statistics about preventable medical errors in this country, and in particular, Texas.
Let's begin with this one: “Between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.… That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.”
Moreover, the hospital location with the highest proportion of negligent adverse events (52.6 percent) is the emergency department, according to the Institute of Medicine.
As bad as that all is, in Texas things are worse. Writes Texas Watch:
Patient rights in Texas have been decimated. Prop 12, which was passed in Texas in 2003, arbitrarily restricts the legal rights of all Texans [so it’s almost impossible to sue for malpractice]. … This allows the few dangerous doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes to escape accountability for the needless injury or death they cause. Not only does this put patients at greater risk of medical negligence, it has not led to improvements in the cost, access, or quality of health care in our state.
Thanks to the state’s severe “cap” on compensation and other restrictions on patients’ legal rights, cases involving medical malpractice in emergency rooms have been knocked out almost completely, making Texas ER’s some of the most dangerous in the country. “’What Texans don’t know is that their Legislature has mandated a very low standard of care — almost no care,’ says Brant Mittler, a Duke University-educated cardiologist in San Antonio who added malpractice law to his resume in 2001.’”
And ER’s aren't the only problem in Texas, as many have reported. In 2011, we covered this Texas Observer story about Dr. Christopher Duntsch who, “came to Dallas to start a neurosurgery practice [and] by the time the Texas Medical Board revoked his license in June 2013, Duntsch had left two patients dead and four paralyzed in a series of botched surgeries.” We also covered this story, where Parkland Memorial Hospital, the Dallas hospital to which they rushed President John F. Kennedy to try to save is life, became such a "serious threat" to patient safety that government considered throwing it out of the Medicare program. See more about Texas here.
And the evidence continues to pile up. A new academic study shows that after Texas enacted its lawsuit limits, including “caps” on damages, rates of preventable medical errors rose, “consistent with hospitals gradually relaxing (or doing less to reinforce) patient safety standards.” In other words, we now know there is a direct link between the enactment of so-called "tort reform" and deteriorating patient safety.
So I, for one, am not wondering too much how a Texas hospital could have committed such an enormous, preventable medical error, sending home a man infected with Ebola where he proceeded to come in contact with 80 other people, including children. This, my friends, is the inevitable consequence of “tort reform.”
UPDATE: Texas Watch has a great new fact sheet on this topic. Check it out!