Consumer Advocate Perspective Provided by Jean Rexford at US Senate Hearing

July 8, 2012

Jean Rexford, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, recently testified at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging about Patient Safety.

In her testimony of the impact of preventable adverse events on hospitalized Connecticut consumers, Ms. Rexford spoke about the organization’s history related to hospital infections and the state’s experience with its HAI public reporting law.  The following is an excerpt of her important testimony from the consumer advocate’s perspective:

We began our work with hospital infections. When I learned in 2005 that there were just two infections reported across 31 hospitals in Connecticut, I knew that it was a good issue to tackle. We were told by hospitals executives with whom we spoke that most infections were “expected”, which revealed to me a fundamental gap between consumer and medical facility perspectives. I can assure you that no healthcare consumer “expects” to visit a licensed medical facility and acquire a deadly infection as a result of receiving care. It was not difficult to amass stories of patients and families and what had happened to them when they had acquired an infection. Keith lost his job, Mary’s infected hip replacement put her in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. We brought these stories to our legislature – and legislators added their own stories. Twenty-six states now have legislation requiring public reporting of hospital acquired infections and the Federal government paid attention. There is an impressive nationwide effort to begin to address infections and needless suffering and costs. But think of the individuals who have died and their families loss because medical facilities were slow to react without legislative intervention.

We have learned over the years that legislation has limitations – the healthcare consumers will never get all that we want or all that we deserve. There is absolutely no road map for the consumer patient safety movement and only meager funding for advocates. When funding is awarded for patient safety improvements in the clinical setting, there is seldom a requirement for consumer representation on medical facility commissions, panels, and workgroups studying patient safety innovation and quality improvement. Most funded endeavors exclude patient voices altogether.

The Center for Patient Safety is a non-profit consumer advocacy organization.  You can read Ms. Rexford’s testimony and watch the hearing by visiting the organization’s website at http://www.ctcps.org/.

Reference:  Testimony of Jean Rexford, Executive Director, Connecticut Center for Patient Safety.  U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.  Congressional Field Hearing Testimony.  July 2, 2012.  Available at: http://www.aging.senate.gov/events/hr248jr.pdf.

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