Teaching hospital system safety questioned

Dec. 19, 2010 at 7:24 PM
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DALLAS, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Teaching hospitals treat about half of U.S. inpatients, but government data reveals little about their safety records.

The training model for medical residents, which moves them quickly from observing to practicing on patients, is known as "see one, do one, teach one."

To that, Dr. Bertrand Bell, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and a leader of efforts to reform resident supervision, told The Dallas Morning News he would add: "Sometimes kill one."

The largely self-regulated system relies on the cheap labor of medical residents and guards secrecy. Many of the victims of medical errors are the poor and uninsured, people rushed to emergency rooms or lying unconscious in surgery.

It is difficult to measure patient harm in teaching hospitals nationally because public data often shield hospitals' identities.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general estimated that hospitals had contributed to the deaths of 15,000 Medicare patients in a single month.

And University of California researchers said this summer they had documented the July effect -- that patient harm increases when medical school graduates start work as residents.

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