It is well-understood that falls from great heights are dangerous. It is also well-understood that falling any significant distance – say, down a flight of stairs – is dangerous as well. It is less understood that falling “at the same level” has the potential to be a truly risky occurrence. Such falls can lead to brain injuries, broken bones and internal bleeding just as falling from heights or across distances can.
Unfortunately, falls are becoming an escalating matter of concern for patient safety advocates. Although medical errors are the primary kinds of harm that patients risk most frequently when they are in a healthcare setting, a new report indicates that rates of patient harm resulting from falls and so-called “sentinel events” have been spiking in recent years.
What are sentinel events?
Sentinel events, as defined by The Joint Commission that commissioned the new report, are “patient safety events that result in death, permanent harm or severe temporary harm.”
It is not a secret that many healthcare facilities have been significantly understaffed and that healthcare providers have been particularly overburdened these past few years. Each of these realities is potentially contributing to a rise in injurious patient falls and sentinel events.
The fact that individual patients – or their surviving loved ones in the event of fatal harm – can pursue compensation against a medical facility or another responsible party in the wake of sustaining serious harm is likely of little comfort to many of them.
Nevertheless, speaking with an experienced legal professional after a patient fall or sentinel event occurs can help to ensure that another’s poor decision-making doesn’t impact a patient’s finances. Speaking up can also potentially inspire positive change at a facility that needs to take far better care of its patients.