Three ideas for improving the patient experience at Georgia hospitals

Georgia State CapitolThe Georgia State Capitol as seen on Jan. 5, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

ATLANTA — The state of Georgia has an opportunity to take action and work to prevent the needless deaths of infants in the care of Georgia’s hospitals.

According to the recent “Final Report of the Barriers to Georgians’ Access to Adequate Healthcare,” Georgia ranks “41st in the nation for overall health of the state.”

My son died in an Atlanta hospital, and I firmly believe his death was preventable and that the hospital was anything but transparent about what happened. After this terrible ordeal, I have identified three practical steps lawmakers can take today:

  1. Lay the foundation for an arbitration-style process that provides an avenue for people who want answers, but do not want to litigate. The hospital did not afford us the opportunity to file a complaint, and despite numerous phone calls with doctors and other personnel at the hospital, they did not allow us the opportunity to fully relay our concerns about the treatment our son received or concerns we had about the lack of protocol.
  2. Increase the state’s oversight of hospital investigations. After speaking with hospital representatives, I believe they had no intention of informing us they were investigating suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of my son. Therefore, it is hardly surprising they found they were not at fault, but declined to allow for an independent investigation. The state should not investigate every death, but there should be minimal investigative and reporting standards hospitals are required to follow.
  3. Establish a new statewide committee to study what sections of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated should be amended. Senate Resolution 188, which the Georgia General Assembly passed in 2017, referenced “higher than average infant death rates” as a reason for studying Georgians’ barriers to accessing “adequate” healthcare, but the study does not mention the word infant or offer solutions about how to lower this rate. If no other action is deemed necessary, the state of Georgia should implement more stringent standards for Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

The hospital where my son died appears to have virtually no enforced protocols. For example, the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) allows itself to be a revolving door of visitors, and the staff does little to ensure visitors properly wash their hands before entering or follow any of the other rules.

Additionally, hospital staff entered the room with outside food and drink and did not wash their hands every time they entered.

The head of the NICU looked to blame anyone else but themselves, saying “bacteria are everywhere.” Before conducting or completing an investigation, the chief medical officer of the hospital told me “we decide whether we did anything wrong or not,” leading me to believe any investigation the hospital conducted would be whitewashed.

Bringing this story to the attention lawmakers has been nothing short of a frustrating.

This situation will never improve if elected lawmakers and unelected bureaucrats refuse to understand the situation on the ground and how the current situation affects those who have no voice.

These are just three ideas to consider. There are surely more, but the conversation needs to start somewhere.

Taking action — or even discussing the potential for action — to ensure no one else has to experience the death of an infant is apparently too much to ask. It is too late for my son, but it is not too late to help someone else.

About the author

Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.