Bankole: DMC saga and hospital accountability

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

It’s time to have a serious public health debate about the effectiveness of hospitals that are charged with saving lives in this region.

For years the Detroit Medical Center has sponsored radio and TV commercials explaining how it offers the best medical services. With billboards splashed all around town, DMC has been branding itself as a flagship medical institution in southeast Michigan.

The health system sold that story again and again without much scrutiny until The Detroit News broke the story about more than a decade of complaints about problems with dirty surgical instruments at the Midtown campus, yet did nothing significant to address the problem.

This is a complete betrayal of the public trust placed in an institution considered one of the jewels of Detroit. It is an abdication of the moral obligation hospitals have to the communities they serve.

The fact that this was an ongoing problem while DMC was telling a different story in paid radio and TV commercials about how great a place it is, was plainly deceptive.

Why would a hospital that claims to be a top-notch organization not move with all deliberate speed to address the issue of unsterilized instruments? That should scare anyone from ever wanting to go that hospital again for surgery, especially after the public revelation.

It becomes even more worrisome after a Detroit News report last week about Ervice Gregory, who says she has not been the same after surgery five years ago at Harper University Hospital for a scar removal.

Gregory said she left the hospital with infections and has been sick ever since. Though there is no direct evidence to suggest that she was operated on with unsterilized instruments, the timing of her surgery and the extent of her suffering led her attorney Michael Fortner to believe she has possible cause to file a suit against the hospital.

The unfolding DMC saga should make us all pause and ask: How well is the Detroit Medical Center serving this region? What else is the DMC not telling the public?

DMC and its parent company — the for-profit, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare — have said they have hired a private firm to oversee sterilization of instruments, but not much more.

“Instruments are getting lost. Instruments are getting dirty. Instruments are not available. It’s a surgeon’s nightmare,” is how one doctor explained it in the News probe.

When surgeons themselves have to express concern about the competence of DMC, maybe it is time that the medical center be forced to not only develop a new model of accountability to ensure patient care, but also ensure that accidents and errors in the system are corrected once detected.

DMC has a long road to go to regain the public trust. Creating and nurturing a culture of accountability and facing issues like these head-on should be the hallmark of the hospital and its administrators as it moves forward.

No administrator at DMC would want his or her family to undergo any kind of medical procedure in a hospital where there are questionable surgical instruments.

We all want the best health care for our families. DMC owes that to this community and this region and needs to step up.

On its webpage DMC says, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our care and the trust of our community.”

If that is the case, prove it.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.