Muncie and Jaffe have yet to interest any legislators. But the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents hospital, health plan, and doctor groups in the state, crafted this statement in June 2009:
"We are engaged in several initiatives to measure, report and support improvement in patient safety and care quality. However we recognize that despite these efforts situations and errors may occur while caring for patients that can have serious and sometimes fatal results.
"These events are tragic for all involved–patients, families and caregivers." There are inherent risks, the statement continues, "not all of which can be predicted or prevented.
"But when errors do occur and preventable serious adverse outcomes result, Virginia's hospitals and health systems believe that information about the error should be promptly and openly communicated to patients and their families, and that those financially responsible for the related healthcare service patients, insurers or employers – should not be asked to pay for that care."
Doug Gray, the association's executive director who had heard about Muncie's case, said, "this is an issue that should fall in an area of discussion for non-payment. The golden rule is what we ought to be practicing. In this case, did they do what they could to avoid a surgical site infection?...If I were the hospital's attorney, I would be worried."
I hope my friend Muncie and his wife get through this ordeal quickly. Sometimes terrible events like this expose system flaws that zeal and transparency serve to fix.
"We want to save lives," Muncie said. We believe very strongly that if these safeguards were put into effect, these systems, these rates will plummet. And if the monetary system is also put into place that incentivizes hospitals to save patients, more people won't get infected during surgery."
Well said, John.