As trial lawyers one of our duties is to investigate hospitals when patients are neglected or abused, since our government has neither the resources nor the political will to do so. As described in a Chicago Tribunue investigation:
The Illinois Department of Public Health declined to investigate 85 percent of the 560 hospital complaints it received last year, even when the reports alleged violations such as patient abuse and inadequate infection control, records show. Some allegations of serious harm or death were not pursued even though federal law requires that such claims be investigated within 48 hours.
“These are serious complaints,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of the national Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. “If the regulatory system is collecting these complaints and not responding, that is a massive failure of oversight.”
Complaints can reveal crucial systemic problems, experts say. And when it finds violations, the state can order hospitals to make corrections.
But Illinois regulators say they don't have the funding to investigate. And the hospital industry has fought proposals to pay for the investigations with fees that amount to pennies a day per hospital bed.
This report shows why private citizens must have access to the courts when mistakes have been made in hospitals. With such a void left by the State, the victims or their surviving families must be able to turn to the courts to get justice and to put pressure on the hospitals so they will not repeat these mistakes.