Hospital malpractice or negligence occurs in a hospital and can lead to serious physical injury or death to a patient. When any member of the hospital staff, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and technicians, is negligent and a patient is harmed it is called medical malpractice. Common forms of hospital negligence include:
- dropping of patients,
- improper treatment of patients’ wounds,
- bedsores that developed due to lack of movement,
- exposure to hazards,
- substandard care,
- unclean facilities,
- tainted instruments,
- inadequate staffing,
- inadequate supervision,
- failure of hospital employees to carry out the orders of the attending physician, and
- ignoring and not understanding signs and symptoms of diseases or condition that a physician needs to be notified of immediately.
Regardless of how the negligence occurred, there isn’t any excuse for a hospital to place patients in danger by providing a patient with inadequate or negligent care. Hospitals are required to adhere to policies and procedures so that the health and well-being of patients is ensured.
When a patient is injured do to the incompetent acts of a hospital employee, the hospital is responsible for that employee’s actions. As long as the hospital employee was doing a job related activity when s/he injured the patient, the patient can sue to the hospital. However, doctors who make a mistake and injures a patient while working in a hospital, the hospital is not necessarily liable for the doctor’s mistake. The hospital will only be liable if the doctor is an employee.
Another factor to consider on who is responsible for a hospital employee’s negligence also depends on who was supervising the employee when the negligence occurred. If the employee was being supervised by a doctor then the patient can sue the doctor and the hospital may not be liable. This depends on:
- whether the doctor was present, and
- whether the doctor had the control to prevent the negligence of the employee.
When hospitals are liable for the actions of non-employee doctors
One situation is when the hospital appeared to be the doctor’s employer. When a hospital has not made is clear to a patient that a doctor is not an employee, the patient can sue the hospital for the negligence of a doctor. However, if the patient is injured in the emergency room, the hospital does not have an opportunity to inform the patient that the doctor is not employed by the hospital. Therefore, it is often the case that patients treated in the emergency room can sue the hospital for a doctor’s medical malpractice.
Another situation is when a hospital keeps an incompetent doctor on the staff. If staff privileges are given to an incompetent or dangerous doctor, even if that doctor is an independent contractor, the hospital may still be responsible for the doctor’s malpractice.
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