National Patient Safety Week – Join Us Tomorrow

This is National Patient Safety Week, being observed by health care providers, advocates, and others across the country.

To mark the week, Rosemary Gibson, an expert on health care quality issues, is speaking tomorrow (Tuesday, March 9) at HCFA on her new book, “The Treatment Trap,” which looks at overuse of medical care and the impact on consumers and on the health care system. Read an interview with Ms. Gibson in today’s Boston Globe. Tomorrow’s talk is 12-1pm at HCFA, 30 Winter Street, Boston, 9th floor. E-mail Deb Wachenheim to RSVP.

Looking at patient safety here in Massachusetts, there are many wonderful initiatives coordinated through the Department of Public Health that seek to ensure that Massachusetts residents are not harmed and, if they are harmed, that they have someplace to go for assistance. Many of these programs are at risk of being seriously cut or eliminated because of lack of funding.

The Governor’s H. 2 budget for next year released in January cut $1.5 million from DPH’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality. The office has substantial oversight authority. It oversees numerous programs dedicated to patient safety, including the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction and the Drug Control Program. The Division of Health Care Quality within the Bureau oversees health care facilities throughout the state, including hospitals, nursing homes and home health providers. The office monitors care and responds to complaints about care that are received through its 24/7 consumer complaint hotline. They receive about 12,000 complaints per year. Many calls concern neglect and abuse, often of the elderly. The office investigates the most serious complaints- about 10% of the total. With more funding cuts, fewer investigations can take place.

This office has been crucial to the state in the successful implementation of Chapter 305, the 2008 Health Cost, Quality and Transparency Law. Massachusetts is one of the few states to have public reporting of both healthcare-associated infections and Serious Reportable Events. Come this summer, there will be a website listing all the gifts that pharmaceutical companies have given to prescribers. This transparency and commitment to public reporting takes funds. A $1.5M cut to the office will be detrimental in continuing the success that Massachusetts has had in reducing medical errors and protecting patients.

These are just some examples of the serious impacts that deep funding cuts to the Safety and Quality Bureau could have on Massachusetts residents. As we observe Patient Safety Week and celebrate the many helpful programs and services that DPH provides, we also recognize the need to strongly advocate on behalf of all of these programs to make sure Massachusetts continues to place a priority on improving patient safety.
Mehreen Butt and Deb Wachenheim

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