Illinois hospitals are required to have an internal review board that conducts investigations that focus on the quality of patient care. These investigations can be triggered by catastrophic outcomes, unexpected deaths, and also by the suggestion of another hospital employee. The purpose of these investigations is to improve the quality of patient care by identifying any potential abuse or medical negligence and then coming up with ways to prevent similar outcomes in the future.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has recently amended its regulations regarding various components of patient abuse and neglect in order to increase patient safety in hospitals. These new regulations fall under the amendments made to 77 Ill. Adm. Code 250 et seq. and have already gone into effect in Illinois.
One of the most valuable tools for identify patient abuse is hospital employees themselves. Hospital employees are aware of what the appropriate standards are for patient care and are in an unique position to identify when abuse does occur. Therefore, many of the new regulations are meant to clarify the process of reporting patient abuse and neglect and putting protections in place for the “whistleblower” employees.
First, the regulations have clarified the definition of patient abuse as “any physical or mental injury or sexual abuse intentionally inflicted by a hospital employee, agent, or medical staff member on a patient of the hospital.” 77 Ill. Adm. Code 250.260(c). This clarification will help employees understand what types of actions constitute patient abuse, which is important because under the new regulations any employee who witnesses patient abuse is required to report the abuse to their department head within 24 hours.
The basis for this report must be that the hospital employee had a “reasonable cause” to believe that a patient’s safety had been violated. The regulations identify that this might be a difficult position for hospital employees to take and therefore take steps to provide a safe harbor for those who report patient safety violations. Any retaliation against those making a good faith report of abuse has been banned and hospitals are prohibited from engaging in practices that might discourage good faith reports of abuse.
Then, after receiving a report of any patient abuse, the Illinois Department of Public Health requires that the hospital conducts a “prompt” internal investigation to determine whether the there was in fact patient abuse, and if so, what was its extent. Said investigation is to be conducted by a designated hospital employee or agent who is well versed in the different types of patient abuse and be qualified to detect any instances of patient abuse or medical malpractice.
To further protect patients from additional occurrences of patient abuse, any physician or nurse suspected of violating a patient’s safety will be removed from further contact with patients until the investigation is completed. These new regulations are meant to raise the level of care required and take a proactive stance in preventing occurrences of patient abuse.
For over 35 years, Kreisman Law Offices has handled Illinois medical negligence cases and nursing malpractice lawsuits in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Hinsdale, Morton Grove, Chicago’s Roscoe Village, and Vernon Hills.
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