State Health Officials Fail to Investigate Reports of Neglect and Abuse by Illinois Hospital Patients

November 18, 2011

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgA shocking new report by the Chicago Tribune details the state's failure to protect Illinois hospital patients from harm. A vast majority of complaints involving serious abuse and neglect are being ignored, and the court system is the only outlet for many of these medical malpractice victims to be heard.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers are well-versed in federal law, which requires that the Illinois Department of Public Health investigate serious allegations of inadequate care or mistreatment by hospital staff within 48 hours. This law is extremely important to ensure quality care for millions of hospital patients across Illinois. Without proper regulation and investigation, hospitals have no incentive to correct the problem and avoid future mistakes.

Unfortunately, according to the report, at least 85 percent of hospital complaints involving allegations that ranged from dirty needles to patient abuse were ignored last year by the state of Illinois. Some of these complaints involved preventable medical mistakes, such as using proper safety gear and equipment. One hospital patient died from a bacterial infection because the staff failed to wear protective clothing and gloves. This tragic incident was reported to state regulators, but they declined to investigate it further. They also declined to investigate at least four complaints from another downstate hospital, where patients were allegedly left in their own feces and sores for an extended period of time.

Lack of funding and untrained hospital staff are just a few of the excuses that the state has used to explain why the regulatory system is not adequately responding to these complaints. Public health officials have proposed fees that would amount to a few cents per day for each hospital bed, and provide regulators with additional resources to investigate complaints. Several states outside of Illinois use a similar fee-based system to ensure broader inspections. But groups such as the Illinois Hospital Association argue that hospitals are already struggling with Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and additional fees would add to the already increasing cost of healthcare.


State hospitals often rely on internal controls to regulate the quality of care. In fact, Illinois was one of the first states to recognize the corporate negligence theory, finding that hospitals have a duty to act on complaints of nurses regarding allegations of substandard care. However, the latest research shows that even complaints by hospital employees are not given proper consideration. One nurse alerted the health department to inadequate staff levels in her newborn unit, but regulators failed to investigate. This failure of government oversight puts patients in danger because it does not provide any recourse for negligence or abuse.

With the Illinois Department of Public Health routinely overlooking patient complaints about serious harm, the justice system is the only effective way to hold negligent hospitals accountable. Our experienced Illinois medical malpractice lawyers understand that private citizens deserve quality medical care. When the hospitals that we trust and the government agencies that we rely on jeopardize patient safety by ignoring allegations of harm, a medical malpractice lawsuit is an effective way to ensure that these mistakes do not happen again. Far too many hospital patients are suffering serious injuries or death due to preventable medical mistakes, and these situations deserve immediate attention and monitoring.