Avoid having surgery during the summer: What Ohio hospitals aren’t telling you

by R. Craig McLaughlin

It’s the championship football game and your favorite team is driving down the field to score a touchdown. Your star quarterback and seasoned offensive linemen are working together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is in perfect sync and the entire team is seemingly moving as one. Your team can’t be stopped.

But wait! What’s this? A time out is called and in come a slew of substitutions. Your veteran quarterback and linemen are replaced by a rookie and four other practice squad players, who are being asked to play positions they have never played before.

For the rest of the game, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with each other and poor communication between the players lead to sacks, turnovers and a loss for your team.

Would the fans ever tolerate a change in personnel like this during the middle of an important game? No way!

But this is exactly the type of substitution that happens at Ohio’s teaching hospitals every summer and it puts patients at risk.

The most dangerous month for surgery

Every July, at teaching hospitals like The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there is a change of health care providers that threatens the safety of the patients at these facilities.

This is when the most experienced residents graduate and leave the hospital. These graduating residents have spent the past three to six years training under the guidance of more experienced doctors and the patients at these teaching hospitals served as their case studies.

However, these experienced residents are replaced by brand new doctors who just graduated from medical school. To compound the problem, the remaining residents who have been at the hospital for a year or two are now being asked to assume new and unfamiliar roles. Consequently, this can be a very dangerous time for patients at these teaching hospitals.

A medical team performing an operation
Do you know which month is most dangerous for surgery?

This is such a dangerous time of year for patients that studies show the rate of patient deaths and complications from medical procedures increases between 8% and 34% during the month of July.

Dr. John Young of the University of California, San Francisco, reported these findings in a study he published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Every year this “July effect” – as the hospitals sometimes refer to it – affects about 100,000 doctors in teaching hospitals around the country. According to Dr. Young, no other industry undergoes such a dramatic change in personnel on such a regular basis.

Steps for a safer medical operation

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family members? Here are three tips from an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney:

1. Ask your doctor if he or she will be performing your surgery at a teaching hospital where doctors in training may be involved in your care. Some hospitals are not teaching hospitals or your procedure might be performed at a surgery center that does not use residents. If that is the case, then you likely won’t be affected by this problem.

2. If your surgery is elective and it is safe for you to put it off, request that your surgery be scheduled during the first six months of the year. At that time, the doctors being trained at a teaching hospital will be more experienced and familiar with the hospital’s policies, procedures and nursing staff, and there will be less of a chance for a mistake to be made.

3. If you have to have your surgery during the summer months because it can’t wait, let it be known that you want the most experienced doctor to perform your surgery and to be very involved in your care. Ohio’s teaching hospitals are important to train the doctors of the future, but your health and well-being should not suffer because you are being used as the guinea pig for a brand new doctor.

 

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

5 tips from an Ohio nursing home neglect lawyer for choosing a good nursing home for a family member

By Craig McLaughlin

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau recorded the greatest number of people age 65 and older in census history.  The number was 40.3 million people, or 13% of the population, and that number is only going to go up into the future.  As people live longer, many Ohioans are going to need medical care and assistance that can only be found at a nursing home.  There are almost 1,000 nursing homes in Ohio. So how can you find out what is a good nursing home vs. a bad one? Here are 5 quick tips to help you select a nursing home for your family member.

1. Check out the nursing home on the Ohio Department of Health and Medicare websites

choosing the right nursing home
Photo: Ulrich Joho/CC BY 2.0

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is responsible for monitoring and regulating nursing homes in Ohio.  These facilities are subject to regular inspections by investigators from the ODH.  The ODH puts out the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide which contains inspection reports, facility details, family satisfaction survey scores, and resident satisfaction survey scores.

Many Ohio nursing home residents pay for their care by using Medicare and Medicaid.  In order for a nursing home to receive payment from the government, it must comply with minimum standards that are established.  The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services monitors and compares these facilities to see which ones are doing a good job. Their website, Nursing Home Compare, contains quality of care information on more than 15,000 nursing homes.

2. Visit the nursing home to see how the staff interacts with each other

I recommend that you actually go and visit the nursing home and spend an hour or two in the waiting area or other common areas of the facility and just observe what happens in a typical day.  Pay attention to how the nurses, therapists, and aides interact with each other.  Chances are if they are being rude to each other, then they are going to be rude to your family member, especially when you’re not there.  Also, watch to see if they are taking the time to talk to the residents or are too busy gossiping with each other and are ignoring the residents.

3. Ask questions of the nurses and nurse’s aides

In the past, many of the owners of Ohio nursing homes lived in the same community and knew many of the residents before they even started living at the nursing home.  They treated the residents like family.  This has changed as more and more nursing homes are bought up by large national corporations who are more concerned with cutting costs in order to improve their stock price.  With Medicare reimbursement and Medicaid reimbursement rates remaining flat and expenses going up, this often results in staffing of the nursing homes being kept to the bare legal minimum. This means nurses and aides are often overworked and underpaid.

I encourage you to ask actual nurses and nurse’s aides at the nursing home how long they have been at that particular facility.  If the nurses and aides have been there a long time, then that is a good sign the employees are being compensated fairly, are not being stretched too thin, and will likely provide better care to your family member.  Also, ask them if they work a lot of overtime or double shifts. If the answer is yes, then that can be a bad sign that patient care is going to be negatively affected by short staffing.  Please remember you need to get past the marketing person who is giving you a fancy brochure and a tour of the facility and ask questions of the actual care providers.

4. Give the nursing home the smell test

It’s a sad fact aging can lead to the loss of bowel and bladder control.  A person’s medication can also cause gas.  These things can lead to some unpleasant, but not unexpected smells, at a nursing home.  However, if the facility smells like stale urine, then that can be a sign the nursing home is not being cleaned routinely or correctly.

5. Give the nursing home the taste test

Ask the nursing home if you can eat a meal in the dining area. Where the residents eat, how the food looks, and how it tastes is also a good indicator of the quality of care your family member will receive at the nursing home. If a lot of the residents eat their meals in their rooms instead of the dining area, then that can be a sign that they are not receiving a lot of attention from the staff.  Is the food visually appealing? Is it edible? Food is often very important not only for good physical health, but also can improve the spirits of your family member.

With the baby boomer generation getting older and people living longer, it should be no surprise that new nursing homes are being built in Ohio.  But how do you know if these new facilities or existing nursing homes are any good? If you are faced with the difficult decision of putting your loved one into a nursing home or some type of assisted living facility, then I encourage you to follow these five tips in order to select a safe place for your family member.

 

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents, and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

 

Hoverboard Injury Attorneys

One of the hottest 2015 holiday gifts, “hoverboards” may look fun,  but they also pose serious risks—and not just from falling. Also known as a smart board or balance board, these electric skateboards can catch fire or explode, prompting online retailers to pull some brands of self-balancing scooters.

hoverboard fire hazard
Photo: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

How does a hoverboard work?

Although the term “hoverboard” evokes images of a floating skateboard or surf board-like device, current devices on the market actually roll on two wheels. In reality, a more accurate description of a hoverboard would be “a self-balancing scooter.”

Self-balancing scooters have several unique components that allow them to maintain their pitch and balance, including a gyroscope, microprocessors and independent motors that balance the board. Powering these components is a lithium ion battery, which is prone to catching fire or exploding, even when used as intended.

Hoverboard injuries

Hoverboard fall hazards

Like any ride-on toy with wheels, hoverboards present an inherent risk of falling. Nevertheless, since riders expect the board to balance itself, it is possible that more severe injuries will occur because the microprocessors, gyroscopes and motors can malfunction. If the board fails to stabilize itself, jerks unexpectedly or malfunctions, serious injuries may occur. According to the CPSC, ERs across the country have reported life-altering injuries including traumatic brain injuries, organ damage, concussions and bone fractures.

Hoverboard fire risks

Regrettably, falls may not be the cause of the most serious injuries associated with self-balancing scooters. According to the CPSC, there have been at least 16 reports of hoverboard fires in 12 states since the devices hit the market.

Fortunately, the harm caused by hoverboard malfunctions and fires have been limited largely to property thus far. However, the multiple house fires that have occurred while these devices were charging resulted in significant and serious losses. If there is a design flaw or manufacturing defect in these devices, the number of serious injuries and even fatalities will likely increase.

Hoverboard recall

Despite the reports of personal injuries and fires, no manufacturer has issued a hoverboard recall. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recognizes that hoverboards have caught fire during charging and use and is actively investigating the cause. On December 16, U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye issued a statement regarding the risks. Chairman Kaye stated that he has directed the CPSC to “work non-stop” until the cause of the hoverboard fires is determined. Kaye also stated, “While the fire hazard has generated significant attention, I do not want to downplay the fall hazard.” He also expressed concern that “there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards.”

Hoverboard Safety Tips

For the thousands of families with hoverboards, the CPSC offers the following safety tips to help reduce the risk of an incident:

  • Avoid buying the product at a location (like a mall kiosk) or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and how they can be contacted if there is a problem
  • Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board
  • Charge and store in an open dry area away from items that can catch fire
  • Do not charge directly after riding (let the device cool for an hour before charging)
  • If giving a hoverboard to someone as a gift, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up.
  • Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory. While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.
  • Do not ride near vehicular traffic
  • Wear safety gear when using a hoverboard, including a skateboard helmet, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards

Please report incidents to CPSC via www.SaferProducts.gov.

Hoverboard lawsuit

If you or a loved one has suffered a life-changing injury due to a hoverboard malfunction that caused a serious fall or you are the victim of an explosion or fire due to a hoverboard’s lithium ion battery, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your claim.