Avoid having surgery during the summer: What Ohio hospitals aren’t telling you

by R. Craig McLaughlin

It’s the championship football game and your favorite team is driving down the field to score a touchdown. Your star quarterback and seasoned offensive linemen are working together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is in perfect sync and the entire team is seemingly moving as one. Your team can’t be stopped.

But wait! What’s this? A time out is called and in come a slew of substitutions. Your veteran quarterback and linemen are replaced by a rookie and four other practice squad players, who are being asked to play positions they have never played before.

For the rest of the game, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with each other and poor communication between the players lead to sacks, turnovers and a loss for your team.

Would the fans ever tolerate a change in personnel like this during the middle of an important game? No way!

But this is exactly the type of substitution that happens at Ohio’s teaching hospitals every summer and it puts patients at risk.

The most dangerous month for surgery

Every July, at teaching hospitals like The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there is a change of health care providers that threatens the safety of the patients at these facilities.

This is when the most experienced residents graduate and leave the hospital. These graduating residents have spent the past three to six years training under the guidance of more experienced doctors and the patients at these teaching hospitals served as their case studies.

However, these experienced residents are replaced by brand new doctors who just graduated from medical school. To compound the problem, the remaining residents who have been at the hospital for a year or two are now being asked to assume new and unfamiliar roles. Consequently, this can be a very dangerous time for patients at these teaching hospitals.

A medical team performing an operation
Do you know which month is most dangerous for surgery?

This is such a dangerous time of year for patients that studies show the rate of patient deaths and complications from medical procedures increases between 8% and 34% during the month of July.

Dr. John Young of the University of California, San Francisco, reported these findings in a study he published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Every year this “July effect” – as the hospitals sometimes refer to it – affects about 100,000 doctors in teaching hospitals around the country. According to Dr. Young, no other industry undergoes such a dramatic change in personnel on such a regular basis.

Steps for a safer medical operation

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family members? Here are three tips from an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney:

1. Ask your doctor if he or she will be performing your surgery at a teaching hospital where doctors in training may be involved in your care. Some hospitals are not teaching hospitals or your procedure might be performed at a surgery center that does not use residents. If that is the case, then you likely won’t be affected by this problem.

2. If your surgery is elective and it is safe for you to put it off, request that your surgery be scheduled during the first six months of the year. At that time, the doctors being trained at a teaching hospital will be more experienced and familiar with the hospital’s policies, procedures and nursing staff, and there will be less of a chance for a mistake to be made.

3. If you have to have your surgery during the summer months because it can’t wait, let it be known that you want the most experienced doctor to perform your surgery and to be very involved in your care. Ohio’s teaching hospitals are important to train the doctors of the future, but your health and well-being should not suffer because you are being used as the guinea pig for a brand new doctor.

 

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

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3 Replies to “Avoid having surgery during the summer: What Ohio hospitals aren’t telling you”

  1. I am a Cleveland Clinic patient who has had the worst experience with them and would like compensation for the past two and half months. My body is ready for a second opinion by an un biased real doctor. TY , L.T.

    1. Laura,
      We’re very sorry to hear you are not happy with your healthcare. While not all bad experiences qualify for monetary compensation, we would be happy to answer your questions about pursuing a medical malpractice claim. Call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO for a FREE, no-obligation review of your case.

      Sincerely,
      Your Friends at Elk & Elk

  2. As an added note – last I checked, if you have your surgery / medical care at a teaching hospital ( ie University, Cleveland Clinic, etc) your compensation if malpractice does occur is capped at 1/2 of a that of a private hospital ( 250,000 vs 500,000). Thanks Tort Reform in OH, funded by the medical establishment.

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