A week has passed since returning home from the California Safe Patient Network meeting in beautiful Northern California (Tomales Bay). Our group of Consumers Union staff (from both California AND Texas) and our group of advocates were greeted by wild turkeys (ones with two legs) each morning, and families of deer in the evenings. There were beautiful singing birds and lavish foliage and the Texans were delighted, I bet, to see all that beautiful saltwater from the bay/ocean. We were treated wonderfully by the staff of the Marconi Conference Center, especially the chef, Chris, and our server, Peggy. Every meal was beautifully prepared, and much thought was given to providing healthy, but yummy choices for some of us vegetarians and vegans.
However, all of this beauty and pleasure was overshadowed by the reason we had come together, to “network”, “brainstorm” ideas and become more effective and powerful as a team to strategize about future patient safety issues, and to ultimately lower the shockingly high number of people who are harmed through medical errors/mistakes, medical neglect, and, of course, hospital-acquired infections.
We listened to each others’ stories, that are always hard to tell, but, for me, much harder to hear. We heard statistics, on numbers of people who die from such harm (more than 100,000 deaths), we imagined the so-much-higher numbers of people who are injured, the obscene amount of money spent treating such harm ($45 billion every year) and covered so many aspects in our short time together.
As our time together ended, (three days), I think that we felt that we had accomplished Consumers Union’s goal of creating a network of patient safety advocates throughout the State of California. Personally, I felt that I cannot sit back, say nothing and not accept this call to action by my fellow Californians and Sisters/Brothers who have either suffered harm to their own bodies or loved ones who have actually lost their lives, unnecessarily and, now, cannot speak for themselves.
As my virtual friend, Ms. Oprah, says, “Now that you KNOW, you must SPEAK OUT and ACT.” So I will continue to share my story, educate others about protecting themselves and their beloved, and I ask you to join us, our “warriors” to spread the word that patients are, above all, health care consumers; and consumers have rights, expectations/demands for these PREVENTABLE acts of harm to STOP.
As I have taken my daily neighborhood walks this week, every neighbor I’ve spoken to about the Safe Patient Project has shared their own story: a family member who received a hospital-acquired infection such as MRSA, or has been injured by some “error” or event at a practitioner’s hand. We must say, “We, the consumers, will join together to be stronger as many voices together, than our single voice”. The time has come, hasn’t it? Do I hear your voices joining together, and our arms linked in solidarity?