Patient Safety - Reality Check

To Whom To Complain?

There really isn't anyone on the side of patients to complain t.

For instance, at DaVita's Lufkin Dialysis Center in Texas they held "town hall" meetings to address heath issues and staffing problems about which patients and their families had complained.

A patient who requested the meetings said that the meetings did not address health issues or solve staffing problems about which several patients and their family members had complained.

"Had they fixed the problem two years ago, I don't think it would have come to this now," said Lapika Moffett, a patient who has since transferred to a DaVita center in Dallas where she said her treatment is "excellent." Michael Chee, a spokesman for DaVita, said, "These meetings were held to introduce patients to our new location . . . and to provide a forum whereby patients could provide feedback about amenities and other topics."

People who run healthcare see no reason why patients need someone without vested interests to advocate for them and listen to their complaints. It was after these meetings that a man, whose father had died there, said that he and his mother could not get anyone at the facility to listen to them.

"(Dad) would get nauseated ― sometimes his blood pressure would go so low that he would almost pass out ― but you couldn't get anybody to listen. There was nobody to talk to," he said. He said his mother attended a couple of the town hall meetings.

"The meeting was held in a meeting room . . . There were a lot of people there, and the biggest complaint was that there weren't enough (staff)."

His father passed away shortly after a state surveyor documented that the facility had administered some patient treatments against doctors' orders.

"We both are beating ourselves up a little because Dad was always complaining about that mess ― he hated the place ― but we didn't know to question anything," he said. "We felt we had no alternative anyway."

Because of an unusual cluster of deaths, it is now alleged that an employee intentionally was murdering patients. Healthcare administrators can defend themselves by saying that as soon as they noticed the unusual cluster of deaths they took action. Well, we must be glad that they finally did that. But weren't the patients trying to tell them about what was wrong before the number of deaths was high enough to cause administrators to do something? And what are the patients saying now? That no one would listen.

No one in medicine ever will listen. They believe in themselves too much. And they have a conflict of interest that prevents them from seeing even that they have a conflict of interest. Patients sense it. They don't know who to complain to. When they are steered to the normal channels, those channels to not appear to them to be friendly. Often they give up feeling there is no alternative but to hope the problems don't ruin their lives or kill them. This is like going to court without a lawyer. Patients need independent advocacy.