- Cullman, Alabama


January 3, 2013

COMMENTARY: A Doctor Sees a Hospital Fail His Mother


My family crafted our letter carefully and positively. In it, we suggested specific ways that the hospital could achieve national standards for treating systemic infection. Given the technical nature of our concerns, we asked that I be contacted as our family's spokesperson. We mailed the letter to the hospital president, chief medical officer and chair of emergency medicine, and then we held our collective breath.

Within a week, I received a voice-mail message from the director of the hospital's emergency department. "Hi, Dr. Welch, I did receive your letter today. . . . I have already had discussions with the chief of the intensive care unit, and we are planning to review this case. . . . I wanted to let you know and touch base with you to see if you wanted to have any further discussion right now."

Finally, I thought, we're getting somewhere. I returned the call and left a message, asking to be called back, and waited for a response. But there wasn't one. In fact, there wasn't a return phone call, or any communication from the hospital, for four months.

Initially I thought the administrators there might still be reviewing the case. But as the months ticked by, I began to think our letter had been tossed aside. Angry and reconsidering a lawsuit, I called the director of the emergency department again. This time my call was returned by one of the hospital's top administrators.

The administrator, who happened to be an intensive-care physician, said he'd reviewed the case with other doctors, and, he admitted, the hospital's actions didn't reflect "the degree of urgency" required. A sanitized, verbal admission of error, but an admission nonetheless.

During the next month, some of our letter's concerns were addressed, and changes were made: The emergency department was beginning to enact new guidelines for treating systemic infection. But other changes were dismissed: The hospital wouldn't have intensive-care physicians assume immediate responsibility for all new ICU patients. The administrator said the hospital had tried to move toward that model earlier but there were "political barriers" to doing so.

Text Only
  • COMMENTARY: An alternative diagnosis to ADHD: Schoolchildren need more time to move

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011.

    July 18, 2014

  • Guideline: Most healthy women can skip pelvic exam

    No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

    July 1, 2014

  • Sanofi targets fake Viagra market with non-prescription Cialis

    Sanofi sees an attractive opportunity in the rampant market for counterfeit Viagra: luring men away from dodgy online pharmacies with an over-the-counter version of a competing erection drug.

    June 5, 2014

  • Hospital charges to treat chest pain jump 10 percent in a year

    The charge to treat Medicare patients with chest pain at U.S. hospitals rose 10 percent to $18,568 in just a year, the biggest rise seen among the most common inpatient procedures, according to federal data.

    June 2, 2014

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 26, 2014

  • Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work

    A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country's economic malaise.

    May 12, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Helmets won't protect your kids from concussions

    When I was a kid, helmets were for motorcyclists. Now I see children wearing helmets when they're scooting down sidewalks, skating, skiing, sledding and playing soccer. Last week one of my friends saw a helmeted kid power-walking in Prospect Park. You can even buy $40 baby helmets on Amazon, because, according to the product description, "babies will always fall taking their first steps."

    May 2, 2014

  • 400px-Cannabis_Plant.jpg How bad is marijuana for your health?

    The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a study linking recreational marijuana use to subtle changes in brain structure. The researchers, led by Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital, identified increased gray matter density in the left nucleus accumbens and some bordering areas.

    May 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014