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Editorial: Texans Deserve To Know Hospital Mistakes

This Dallas Morning News editorial is in follow-up to the excellent series the paper has run (and that I have written about) over the past few weeks.

In 2007, state Sen. Jane Nelson did yeoman’s work in passing legislation that requires Texas hospitals to report the types of infections they see in their daily work.

But as this newspaper’s month-long series, “State of Neglect,” has shown, Texans still are often clueless about where their hospitals have messed up, protected by confidentiality laws from disclosing their medical errors.

To some extent, we understand their plight. Some hospitals have been scared stiff that plaintiffs attorneys would sue them out of existence once they got their hands on the specifics on how a hospital works.

Our sympathy ends about where yours does, at the precise point where we have to use that hospital.

Wouldn’t you want to know about every medical abuse before you checked a loved one into any medical facility? Of course you would, which is why we hope watchdogs like Ms. Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, continue pressing legislators to require hospitals to tell us more about their work.

Dallas Morning News reporter Doug Swanson has shown in the last two days how one hospital company, Psychiatric Solutions Inc., avoided disclosing much information. PSI operates health facilities around the country; in Texas, it has 15 private psychiatric hospitals and treatment centers.

The way it runs some of those facilities has drawn state fines. That includes at its Laurel Ridge Treatment Center in San Antonio.

Swanson reported yesterday on a variety of problems there, including staff members leaving children unsupervised, allowing patients to take the wrong medicines, letting mold grow on walls in one resident’s bathroom and allowing a mound of feces to sit in a well-traveled pathway into the residents’ units.

Here’s the problem: Texas’ health department collects that information but does not have to release all its findings. The state once required such disclosures, but no longer.

We recognize that legislators getting settled into their jobs today have many issues to consider. But we urge them to close the loopholes that allow hospitals to keep mistakes secret. One way or another, the public pays the freight at hospitals. It seems only fair that we know everything going on inside those walls.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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