Not All Hospitals Are the Same

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What do you know about your local hospital? If you were having a medical emergency, and your spouse drove you to that hospital, could the doctors there handle the situation? One might assume so, because that is what they do. But in truth, not all hospitals in this country are the same — and some, as reported by The New York Times, actually have to dial 911 for help.

Around the United States sit about 140 hospitals owned and operated by doctors. And that number is growing as we speak. The rest of the hospitals (about 4,500) offer all services while these ones specialize in profitable operations such as hip replacements and back surgeries. Some believe doctors will send patients to their own hospital when it would be a better idea to visit a full-service hospital.

Though doctors are free to build these clinics, U.S. officials are starting to wonder about certain problems that might arise. When a patient has an operation, there is a risk of complications. The issue is: can these small hospitals care for patients who suffer a complication? Do they have the right tools on hand?

Some evidence points to “no”. In Portland, Ore., nurses had to call 911 after an elderly woman received too much pain medicine after spinal surgery. She later died. In Texas, a 44-year-old man experienced breathing problems after spinal surgery. No doctor was present in the hospital at the time. Nurses called 911, and this man died as well.

The government may start clarifying the rules of emergency care. In the near future, hospitals may be forced to meet certain standards. Officials are most concerned with small doctor-run hospitals that offer special surgeries. These surgeries often require that patients stay overnight. As for now, the standards about emergency care are vague.

Doctors at specialized hospitals say they provide the best care for patients. They do the same surgery over and over, thus they know every risk and every conceivable issue that could arise. That may be true, but Medicare is about to take a closer look at these hospitals. Some senators believe doctors could be making decisions with money in mind rather than a patient’s best interests.

Which brings up the question: if you are about to have a medical procedure, do you know where you are having it? Speak with your doctor about it. Are you more comfortable at a full-service hospital, or a small specialty one? It is something all patients would be wise to start thinking about.