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What can I do if I want to report horrible medical service?

By Anonymous February 17, 2009 - 5:09pm
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My mother was taken to the emergency room, then admitted into the ICU and later transferred to a room where she remained for another 5 days.

We experienced SEVERAL medical "mishaps" throughout her stay including a misread of her chart, a mix-up of her and another patient including diabetic status, inconsistency with reports from various doctors and nurses, and the excuse of an MRI machine being broken coincidentally just over the weekend (Friday through Sunday) then miraculously being fixed and ready to go at 7:00am Monday morning.

I need to report the hospital and all of the incidents to someone but I am not sure who? Had i not been there as an advocate to speak on my mother's behalf, who knows what might have happened.

Please help!


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My advice (after working in health care facilities, accredited by the joint commission), is to make a formal complaint through the Patient Services or Patient Resources department of the hospital first, as this is where the changes need to occur.

You can go to your hospital's webpage, and search for the correct place to make your complaint, either using the words "patient", "complaint", "concern" or "quality". The department is usually under a title such as "Quality Assurance" or "Patient Representative". They should be very open to receiving your feedback, and to correct/resolve the matter. Some hospitals have an online complaint form, and a phone number for you to follow-up.

The Joint Commission (JCAHO) would be the next step if your complaint is not resolved after first speaking with the hospital and making the formal complaint. Be specific with the hospital about how you want this remedied.

Let us know if you have trouble finding this form; you can also call the hospital and ask them what the process is to make a formal complaint.

FYI-- here are some of JCAHO's favorite terms (and, the hospital will recognize them; possibly take your complaint more seriously, as you have identified their areas of weakness).

Below are the "National Patient Safety Goals" and (basic standards of care) from JCAHO that relate to your situation:
- Improve the accuracy of patient identification (mix up between patients)
- Timely Reporting of Critical Tests and Critical Results (MRI test not conducted in timely manner, as equipment was broken and did not refer to another facility)
- Managing Hand–Off Communications (inconsistency between doctors)

Hope this helps!

February 19, 2009 - 3:06pm
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Anonymous (reply to Alison Beaver)

Thank you so much for your response. It has been very helpful and I will indeed follow through with the steps you have suggested.

I guess another question for your would be if this would be the process I would follow if I also wanted to file a complaint on a particular physician and their staff? My mother's primary care physician still has not gotten in contact with her in regards to several messages she has left requesting an emergency referral for a phlebotamist. She was told she was extremely anemic when she was admitted into the ER that day and was given 3 blood transfusions during her stay. Upon discharge, she was told to follow up with her PCP, which she did, and inform her of the hospital's physicians' request for her to see a blood specialist as soon as possible to determine the type of anemia she has and how to manage. Even as they discharged her, she was told that her blood count was still low, and they did not know or understand why. It has now been two weeks and she has yet to receive her referral that was supposedly in the mail on February 12th. We have repeatedly left messages and have only received one call back fro the PCP's office.

February 24, 2009 - 1:28pm

You can try writing a letter about your experience with this hospital's performance to the American Hospital Association http://www.aha.org/ for starters. There are two other places you can file complaints against this hospital on the basis of poor performance:
1. http://www.jointcommission.org/
2. The American Medical Association for specific physician performance or ethical behaviour. There website has good information


February 18, 2009 - 12:34am

I'm sorry to hear about your mother's experience in the ER. My suggestion is to write the hospital with your concerns about the incident and the quality (or lack thereof) of care. Most hospitals have a medical/staff review board that would handle patient complaints.

February 17, 2009 - 8:54pm
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