Oregon Legislature Deciding Whether to Extend Whistleblower Protection to All Hospital Staff in an Effort to Prevent Medical Errors

    We recently posted on how a lack of communication among workers in hospitals is leading to serious errors.  A report by the Oregon Patient Safety Commission cited communication as a contributing factor in 72% of the adverse events reported in hospitals for 2009 (read the full report here).
    One of the main reasons workers don’t report mistakes is the fear of retaliation by exposing the errors of a superior.  Oregon law already protects nurses from facing punishment when reporting practices that jeopardize patient safety.  The legislature is now deciding whether to extend that protection to all members of the hospital staff, including lab technicians and nursing assistants. 
    As we’ve reported, a culture of silence is plaguing our health care system.   Hospitals have made good strides in implementing safety measures, such as surgical checklists.  But these steps do little good if caregivers don’t feel comfortable speaking up when a co-worker cuts corners, fails to follow safety protocols, or simply demonstrates a prolonged pattern of incompetence that puts a patient in danger.  Studies show an alarming number of these issues go unreported to on-site safety regulators or state agencies that oversee hospital safety. 
    Senate Bill 237 would help promote a tone of openness in healthcare settings and create a much safer patient environment in Oregon hospitals.  The Oregon Senate unanimously passed the legislation earlier this month.  It's now being considered by the Oregon House.

Read the text of the bill here.


The Personal Injury Law Update is a service of D'Amore Law Group