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We spent a lot of time over the past few months listening to and talking with patients and families from Canada, the U.S. and Europe about patient safety. The common theme of the conversations is that healthcare systems need to do a whole lot better in protecting patients from avoidable harm, or worse, and when it occurs, they need to be much more transparent and forthcoming.  Both are a hard battle.

Another theme is the exhaustion and frustration families face in getting answers or, in many cases, even getting a copy of the family member’s medical record.  There are dozens of ways a hospital can stonewall or evade.  Nearly four years after two Canadian hospitals inflicted a record number of medical errors on my mother, which left her with a severe disability and in a state of what one called “imminent demise,” we are still trying to get answers. In the case of both hospitals, the records show outright lies as to the result of reviews, with the hospitals taking positions that are completely contradicted elsewhere in the medical record.

Even those who have been part of the healthcare system can be shocked at its failure to protect patients and the cover-ups that follow.  In one case, a very well credentialed professional who has worked in the hospital setting shared her tragic story about losing a child in the emergency room.  She is convinced they missed key indicators that would have predicted the chid’s medical crisis and now she is embroiled in a nightmare just trying to obtain medical records.

Another feeling so often expressed is that bodies responsible for certifying doctors and investigating complaints against them are really more in the house painting business — whitewashing, to be precise.  Here it seems that no matter what the evidence, these bodies will be selective in what they consider and almost always disregard the evidence that puts the physician in a negative light.  That was certainly my experience this past spring with the results of an “investigation” by Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.  I plan to have more on that in an upcoming positing.

The bottom line of these conversations is that families pretty much agree that the deck is stacked against them from the outset.  But the interesting thing is that I did not encounter one who felt the battle was not worth it and wanted to give up.   All are determined to do everything they can to right a terrible wrong.  In doing so, they are a safer healthcare system’s most valuable ally and all patients should be grateful.

God bless them all for being there.

Good Luck, Dr. Hoskins

Canada has a new leader in its healthcare system.  Dr. Eric Hoskins is Ontario’s new minister of health and in that task will oversee the country’s largest and most expensive system.  We hope that Dr. Hoskins’ appointment will signal a new chapter in the relationship with patients and families and especially those whose experiences with …

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June 6, 1944 | The Day the Greatest Generation Stood as One on the Beaches of Courage and Freedom

                                              hhh hhh hhh hh hhhhh kkkk A tribute to the Greatest Generation, and the valiant efforts of all those at home and in the theatres of war whose efforts we give special …

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Coming Soon: Lessons for Canada’s largest teaching hospital

What Sunnybrook’s board of directors needs to learn about respecting patients and families and creating a culture of honesty and transparency that enhances patient safety and reduces medical harm.

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What are Canadian Hospitals Hiding?

It is time to put “national” back into Canada’s healthcare system and to give Canadians the straight goods on its performance. Shocking allegations have surfaced in connection with VA hospitals in eight U.S. states. Families and whistleblowers alike claim that secret lists of patients were kept in order to keep them off the books and make …

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A Mother’s Day Tribute

  I am so very proud of my mother who, today, at the age of 92, is living proof that it is possible for the elderly to be more than a statistic and that the will to live, and the love of family, can be among the most potent of life-saving medications.  She is also …

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Ontario’s CCACs reflect shocking culture of excess at the top, paid for by most vulnerable

The CCAC concept was created by bureaucrats and  exhibits some of the worst attributes of bureaucracies.  But it works very well for the bureaucratic mentality that runs it. _____________________________________ EDITOR’S NOTE:  The piece below, and the earlier posting on CCAC excess and abuse, have generated an absolutely amazing number of emails from readers endorsing our conclusions and sharing …

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Time to end Ontario’s home care scam

It’s hard enough for a family to see a loved one at home suffering because CCAC services that were promised were never delivered. But it is an outrage that the members of our Greatest Generation, who saved democracy and rebuilt the economy after World War II, in the waning of their years have become pawns …

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Hospital Abuse of Anti-Psychotic Drugs Must Stop

A shocking CBC/Canadian Press investigation has again confirmed how powerful anti-psychotic drugs are being abused. This time, the news is about quetiapine, marketed under the brand name Seroquel, being given to female inmates in Canadian prisons. The problem is not that the drug is being administered to inmates who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or …

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We Need More Patients and Families Speaking Up for Safer Hospitals

More and more families are giving voice to hospital horror stories so that what happened to their loved ones, and mine, does not happen again. Standing up for safer care after a hospital has inflicted harm is never easy for a family. In many cases, the patient does not get to be part of that …

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