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Care Needed: Texas Hospital Safety Fluctuates Dramatically by Institution

Preventable medical complications acquired at the hospital have become all too familiar in American life. In Texas, the truth about complications is, well, even more complicated. 

In Maine, a high-performing state, most hospitals – more than 70 percent – perform at the highest levels of safety. But in Texas, only 28 percent of hospitals perform that well, according to a national panel of hospital safety experts.

A major new study from the Dallas Morning News confirms that in Texas, preventable complication rates vary widely from individual hospital to hospital.

The Texas Patient Safety Check revealed Dallas Regional Medical Center to have the safest record in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the second safest in the state, with a low rate of preventable complications. Conversely, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth ranked the lowest in the state. There, patients are almost four times as likely to experience a preventable complication than they are at Dallas Regional Medical Center.

The study also reports that when taken as a group, North Texas hospitals perform significantly worse in preventing complications than area hospitals in other parts of the state.

Preventable complications include bedsores, infections and falls.

Patient safety advocates insist that patients and their families can take steps to help prevent complications and medical errors. Initiatives like “Speak Up!” from The Joint Commission encourage patients to pay attention to the medical care that they receive.

Patients are advised to keep track of the dosage of and timing of medication, to ensure that members of the medical staff wash their hands before treatment and to speak up when something does not seem right.

Concerned health care consumers can refer to the Texas Patient Safety Check through the Dallas Morning News. Additionally, the publication offers a Hospital Safety Check, a searchable online tool acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal for its safety ratings of hospitals nationwide.

Compounding Pharmacy In Texas Recalls Medication

A Texas-based compounding pharmacy is the latest facing a nationwide recall in what is quickly becoming a growing public health concern: tainted medications.

It is alleged that patients have become ill after taking products manufactured at Specialty Compounding, LLC, based in Cedar Park, Texas. Specialty Compounding is in the process of recalling all of the medicines manufactured in that facility dispensed since May 9, 2013 after at least 15 people developed bacterial infections traced back to the medicines.

Patients who received intravenous infusions of calcium gluconate, a drug to treat too much potassium or to correct calcium deficiencies, have reported issues after their treatment at Corpus Christi Medical Center Bay Area and Corpus Christi Medical Center Doctors Regional. It is suspected that the medication was not sterile, which caused bloodstream infections; Rhodococcus bacteria was detected, which typically causes symptoms including fever and pain.

The now-recalled batches of calcium gluconate were distributed directly to medical offices and hospitals throughout Texas, and also nationwide to patients, with the exception of North Carolina. Specialty Compounding has announced that is has contacted all customers to notify them of the recall; anyone who is in possession of the product should contact Specialty Compounding at (512) 219-0724 Monday through Friday, between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. CDT, to find out how to return it.

A spokesperson for Specialty Compounding has announced that the company is voluntarily recalling all sterile products at this time out of concern for patient safety. The Federal Drug Administration inspected the facility in March 2013 and reported “questionable testing practices” and a lack of some procedures to establish drug sterility. Some drug processors were seen wearing improper clothing (i.e., not sterile), according to the findings, and it was noted that there was inadequate drug testing to ensure a lack of unwanted microorganisms.

This April, a new Senate bill was proposed which calls for much tighter regulations for the drug compounding industry. The FDA has called for an increase in its regulatory powers for compounding facilities; the regulatory powers typically fall under state regulations.

In 2012, a compounding facility in Framingham, Mass., The New England Compounding Center, was the center of an investigation after people in 20 states were affected; 750 were sickened, including 63 deaths. Contaminated drugs made at the facility caused an outbreak of fungal infections, including meningitis. More than 17,600 doses of methylprednisolone acetate steroid injections were affected. An investigation by FDA investigators discovered mold and fungal contamination in numerous vials of the drugs, and in areas where the drugs were made.

Medical Malpractice An Epidemic, Yet Doctors Consistently Walk Free

Doctors are practicing across the country in spite of serious errors and misconduct in their professional lives. A majority of those doctors who continue to practice have had their clinical privileges revoked by hospitals or have been strictly restricted in their practice, but the medical boards in their state have not taken actions against them such as revoking their license to practice.

A recent investigation by USA TODAY has found that thousands of medical professionals continue to practice, despite being banned by medical offices and hospitals.
Texas doctor Greggory Phillips was charged in 2011 with prescribing the wrong painkillers to a patient, causing her death. In 2008, another of his patients died from a mix of pain medication and psychiatric medications. He had previously been sanctioned for medication mismanagement, fined thousands of dollars, had his medical license placed on probation, and was known as a drug user himself, but he was allowed to continue practicing medicine. It was not until 2011 that Phillips was barred by the medical board from seeing patients, after years of investigations and negotiations behind closed doors.

The state medical boards across the U.S. continue to face criticism for slow, laborious investigative practices and a perceived reluctance to punish or even confront doctors who are harming patients or otherwise acting unethically. One of the issues may be that the physician oversight systems are typically underfunded and overburdened.

The National Practitioner Data Bank is a national repository which assists medical boards in tracking the license records of physicians as well as their malpractice payouts and any disciplinary actions they have faced by HMOs and hospitals. Reports of misconduct must by law be filed every time a doctor faces an “adverse action.” Those reports are supposed to be reviewed by each state’s medical board.

Between 2001 and 2011, at least 6,000 medical doctors lost their clinical privileges or had them severely curtailed, though more than 50 percent were neither fined nor lost their license to practice. Close to 250 doctors who faced sanctions as an “immediate threat to health and safety” did not have their license restricted or revoked. Additionally, 900 other doctors who were cited for incompetence or negligence did not lose their licenses. And the doctors who had the worst records of malpractice have continued to treat patients: though 100,000 doctors paid out for malpractice claims between 2001 and 2011, less than one doctor out of five had to respond to any licensure action from their state medical board.

Blood Thinner Side Effects of Pradaxa Triggers Multiple Lawsuits

Following the formation of the pharmaceutical Pradaxa multidistrict litigation (MDL 2385) in late 2012, there have been more than 640 new federal claims filed. The majority of plaintiffs are alleging that the blood thinner has caused them internal bleeding and other potentially life-threatening side effects.

Dabigatran, better known as Pradaxa, marketed by Boehringer Ingelheim, is an anti-coagulant prescribed to millions of patients since its release in 2010. Now patients are coming forward with claims of life-threatening and other serious side effects.

An FDA MedWatch report states that Pradaxa caused at least 542 known deaths in 2011, the year after it was introduced to the public. Other reports include more than 2,350 cases of internal hemorrhaging, 644 strokes and almost 300 cases of acute renal failure. The most often cited side affects patients are claiming were caused by Pradaxa include gastrointestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhage, stroke, and heart attack.

The maker of Pradaxa, Boehringer Ingelheim, has been accused of concealment of risk, negligence, and strict product liability. The company has also been accused of failing to establish an internal bleeding protocol, failing to warn consumers of the high risks associated with taking Pradaxa, and failing to adequately research the medication’s safety and proper dosage.

Pradaxa has been a popular substitute for Warfarin, an anti-coagulant on the market for more than 50 years. Warfarin also increases the risk of internal bleeding, but the bleeding can be stopped with vitamin K. Pradaxa does not have a comparable antidote and there is no standard method to measure its anticoagulant effects.

Pradaxa lawsuits were consolidated in August 2012 to allow multiple litigants; four bellwether trials are scheduled for August 2014. Meanwhile, Pradaxa is still on the market and is considered a viable treatment option for those who need an anticoagulant. Anticoagulants are designed to reduce blood clotting or prevent blood clots. Anticoagulants are commonly prescribed to treat superficial venous thrombosis (SVT), deep vein clots, and deep venous thrombosis DVT. Anticoagulants are also commonly given when there is a risk of stroke.

As of April 2013, the label for Pradaxa contains a boxed warning which advises that discontinuing the medication may increase the risk of stroke.

If you or a loved one has been prescribed Pradaxa and have had any incidences of an adverse reaction, your experience should be immediately reported to the FDA.

Faulty Defibrillator Wires Are Once Again Being Recalled

St. Jude’s ultra-thin defibrillator wires are part of a new recall for heart patients.

On January 13, St. Jude Medical Inc. issued a recall of the wire that is used to secure a device designed to close an opening which can occur in the heart between the two upper chambers. According to the recall, the wire has the potential to fracture, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Amplatzer TorqVue FX Delivery System has been in use since 2012; the product has been recalled by medical device manufacturer due to its potential for fracture when used in some implant practices and to repair some cardiac anatomies. All batches of the device have been recalled after a number of the wires fractured during surgery. While there have not yet been any reported deaths or serious injuries associated with the product, physicians have been advised to stop using the product and remove it from surgical inventory. Physicians have been advised to use a previous version of the same system which has a somewhat different design. The devices are considered a Class I recall; the patients who received the device are in danger of being seriously injured or killed if it fails.

This is the latest recall in the wake of a larger St. Jude’s recall in 2010, when the manufacturer’s Riata defibrillators were taken off the marker after they were found to have insulation capable of eroding. Almost 80,000 heart patients in the U.S. still have the implant in a blood vessel which leads to the heart.

Extracting defibrillator leads is a risky surgery; it is estimated that many patients with the Riata leads will continue to live with them rather than risk the surgery. Reportedly, two patients have died and one was seriously injured during surgery to remove faulty Riata leads. St. Jude Medical Inc. manufactures and distributes a wide variety of medical devices, implanted defibrillators and pacemakers. In 2012, the company recalled two other similar wires, QuickFlex and QuickSite.

The FDA has ordered St. Jude to conduct a three-year study in which to learn about the risk of insulation failure. The Riata was noted for its ultra-thin wires and was popular with surgeons, but a recent study has shown that 15 percent of patients who received the Riata defibrillator lead later experienced an “insulation breach” or “insulation abrasion,” where the defoliator wires protruded from the cable’s coating. In late 2011, the FDA issued a Class 1 recall for Riata leads when it was found that they were failing at a high rate.

If you have any concerns about your pacemaker or defibrillator or any surgical implants you have received, speak with a Waxahachie personal attorney at Hale Law Firm.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at