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Reducing birth injuries with basic safety programs

A safety initiative involving four organizations has shown that the number of childbirth injuries and fatalities can be reduced through basic practices. Expecting parents in North Carolina might be surprised that these basic practices include communications training, simulating delivery emergency situations, exhibiting greater care when deciding to do cesarean sections and measuring compliance in essential high-risk procedures.

While these are safety methods that many people may think are commonplace in the health care industry, the 15-year safety initiative had notable results. Ascension Health decreased its number of neonatal fatalities by almost half in 43 hospitals, although its rate when the initiative started was less than the national average by 62 percent. A 50-percent reduction of neonatal fatalities nationwide could save the lives of 8,000 babies every year.

Hospital Corporation of America, the largest obstetrics service provider in the country, decreased its number of pulmonary embolism-related maternal fatalities by 86 percent. Furthermore, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center cut its number of oxygen deprivation-related brain injuries to 2 percent of the national average. In 16 hospitals, the health care performance improvement alliance Premier Inc. cut its number of full-term, newborn-related birth traumas by 74 percent.

Although not all childbirth-related injuries and fatalities happen because of medical negligence, the initiative also reported a successful reduction in the number of lawsuits. Claims against HCA were reduced by about 33 percent, while payments from New York Presbyterian dropped 99 percent. This may show that the wider adoption of basic safety practices could save the industry millions, dwarfing the cost of the programs themselves.

When birth injuries and fatalities are the result of doctor, nurse or hospital negligence, the parents may be able to secure compensation through medical malpractice claims. Lawyers could help the parents decide whether to file claims after reviewing the details of their specific circumstances.

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