A 90-year-old World War II vet who had Alzheimer’s disease and poor balance was supposed to never be left unattended where he could possibly fall. Unfortunately, a privately contracted nursing aide negligently left the man sitting on the edge of his bed when she left his room to obtain a piece of equipment used to transfer him from his bed to his wheelchair. When the nursing aide returned to the man’s room, she found him on the floor, with his neck broken.
The man had to undergo surgery to place a screw in his neck to stabilize his cervical bones. His family filed a medical malpractice claim on his behalf against the negligent nursing assistant, the private agency that employed her, and the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (the facility where the man had broken his neck).
The controversy escalated recently when the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (“home’) announced that the facility’s fourth floor was being closed that would result in the reduction of 90 skilled nursing beds and that more than a dozen union employees were being laid off, all in an effort to cut costs due to the state reducing funding to the home in the amount of $4.2 million in anticipation of privatizing the home.
The state also intends to replace 170 union nursing aides in the home with non-union nursing aides, such as the one allegedly responsible for the man’s broken neck. The state has alleged that it would save $18,000 per day by substituting non-union for union nursing aides at the home (the state would pay $15 per hour to private companies to supply non-union nursing aides instead of $15 to $20 per hour that the state currently pays the union nursing aides along with expensive health insurance, pension, and overtime pay benefits). The intended layoffs were blocked by a restraining order issued by a judge on September 30, 2011, which the state has appealed.
Many of the residents of the home are concerned about the quality of the care that they will receive after the home is privatized because, they argue, the union nursing aides provide a higher quality of care to the residents because they have been employed at the home for many years and know the patients and the patients’ needs and habits whereas the contract nursing aides are rarely at the home for any length of time and they come and go often. The state, and some others, argue that the quality of care may actually increase with contracted nursing aides because the non-union nursing aides are easier to replace when they “mess up.”
It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the issue of quality of medical care from the money necessary to provide an appropriate level of medical care. Health care is expensive. Medical tests and medical procedures are expensive. Medical care is a people-intensive endeavor, which makes it expensive. In times of tight fiscal budgets, both privately and publicly, those in charge of the financial decisions need to find areas where expenses can be reduced or eliminated with the least effect on quality (and quantity) of medical care. The choices are difficult — some people will be able to accept the reduction in medical services while others will feel that their health and well-being will be negatively affected by the proposed cut-backs and changes. When the level of medical care is reduced, certain people will be more affected than others.
When financial decisions result in medical injuries, the advice of a medical malpractice attorney may be essential in determining if the injuries you suffered resulted from medical malpractice.
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