Illinois officials didn’t look into 85 percent of the 560 hospital complaints received last year, even when the reports alleged violations such as patient abuse
A patient at Harrisburg Medical Center complained to the state that a bacterial infection spreading through the hospital had already killed one person and that nurses and doctors did not wear protective gowns and gloves.
How did Illinois officials respond? They declined to investigate.
At Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, a patient was pricked by dirty needles, prompting preventive treatment for HIV.
State regulators chose not to pursue that case, too.
They also took a pass on allegations that a staffer at Streamwood Behavioral Health Center assaulted a patient, causing a possible spinal injury, and that a nurse misused an IV machine at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, leading to a near fatal overdose, a Tribune investigation found.
The Illinois Department of Public Health declined to investigate 85 percent of the 560 hospital complaints it received last year, even when the reports alleged violations such as patient abuse and inadequate infection control, records show. Some allegations of serious harm or death were not pursued even though federal law requires that such claims be investigated within 48 hours.
“These are serious complaints,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of the national Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. “If the regulatory system is collecting these complaints and not responding, that is a massive failure of oversight.”
Complaints can reveal crucial systemic problems, experts say. And when it finds violations, the state can order hospitals to make corrections.
But Illinois regulators say they don’t have the funding to investigate. And the hospital industry has fought proposals to pay for the investigations with fees that amount to pennies a day per hospital bed.
Complaints about the same hospital can pile up without any investigations, according to thousands of records reviewed by the Tribune.
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State declines to investigate vast majority of hospital complaints