There is good news for open-heart surgery patients in Syracuse, New York: New York State’s Health Department reported this week that Syracuse’s Upstate (SUNY) Hospital’s death rate for open-heart surgery has dramatically improved: In 2005 SUNY Hospital had one of the highest death rates for open-hear surgery in New York State, with a death rate of 5.34%, but by 2007 it had one of the lowest. The rate now is .5 %, or one in 200 deaths, the third lowest out of 40 New York State hospitals. The average was just under 2%. St Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, the only other Central New York hospital where open-heart surgery is performed, had a rate of 2.27 %, just above average.
Upstate officials claim the improved death rate is due to, among other things, a renewed focus on quality and safety. Those improvements must be applauded. Medical malpractice is, unfortunately, rampant throughout the United States, including in New York State, and including at fine hospitals such as Syracuse’s SUNY. We know. We took a more than $2.5 million Syracuse New York medical malpractice verdict against SUNY two years ago for its malpractice of a Parkinson’s patient. SUNY Hospital’s medical malpractice paralyzed and brain-damaged our elderly client. How? The Hospital’s surgeon had performed the delicate brain surgery using poorly maintained brain surgery instrument that malfunctioned during the surgery.
Harvard researchers have conducted samples showing that as many as 1% of patients treated in New York State hospitals, such as SUNY, are injured, and of those, one fourth die, as a result of medical mistakes. One in a hundred needless injuries, including one in four hundred needless deaths, might not seem like a lot to some, but to us it seems unacceptable. Remember, we are talking about NEEDLESS deaths and injuries. And all that is needed to prevent them is a system that focuses on avoiding mistakes. For example the case where we got a $2.5 million verdict against Upstate Hospital for medical malpractice, all that was needed to avoid the medical malpractice was a system of checking and double checking for proper equipment maintenance.
So our hats go off to Upstate Hospital. For its patients’ sake, we desire continued improvements in death rates, declines in medical malpractice injuries and deaths, and fewer Syracuse medical malpractice claims.