msnbc | July 18, 2010
>>> is july the worst month of the year for you to get care at a hospital? one author thinks so explaininging among many issues the inexperience of new staff contributes to a decline in proper medical care . via skype, patricia terrorry, author of "you bet your life the ten mistakes every patient makes how to fix them to get the health care you deserve." july a bad month for hospitals?
>> it really is. if you think about it when you started your first new job you didn't know what you were doing, had training, your college education but it was all new and different and in a hospital, it's particularly confusing, especially when you get into wards that have emergencies, the emergency room , or a heart ward, so definitely. it's a little more dangerous in july.
>> so july, is it because people are on vacation, you have experienced doctors taking time off, and the residents and interns filling in for the more experienced doctors?
>> absolutely. well you know, i think hospitals staff as well as they can but like any of us, july, august, the summer months are times we do want to take off. and so yes, you have all of a sudden a new group of interns just like in any business, where you have interns there, inexpensive help, learning the job and replacing some of the better experienced doctors.
>> you have a study which shows in the 62 million hospital deaths taking place from 1979 to 2006 there was a 10% increase in deaths in july because of drug errors during the teach hospitals. is the drug problem the prescription problem, much greater than say if you are booking an operation or you have an emergency operation ?
>> yes. definitely. that study was done at uc san diego and they studied 62 million deaths over the span of 1979 to 2006 . and what they discovered was where there were teaching hospitals in particular, where new residents and interns were starting to work, they were prescribing drugs early. now the cleveland clinic did a study, it showed not the same correlation with surgeries and we can only assume that's because new doctors are allowed to prescribe but not really performing surgeries just yet.
>> have you had a personal experience with this sort of inexperience or problems at the hospitals in july?
>> yes, absolutely did. my whole career now is based on the fact that i suffered a really bad misdiagnosis in the summer of 2004 . i was told i had a terminal cancer and, in fact, i had no cancer at all. i've never had any form of treatment six years later. part of the problem was i had this biopsy done and studied by new doctors and they came to this conclusion that i had this rare cancer and then sent that conclusion on to another lab that simply conquered and that all took place from the 30th of june until the 14th of july.
>> if you were in the position of anybody else who is looking at july, what's the -- because obviously if you get sick or you have an accident, you don't really get a choice about when you get sick or when you're in an accident. what's your advice?
>> well, that's absolutely true, contessa. we don't have a choice when we get sick or have to go into the hospital so the best thing to do is to have someone by your side. you really need an advocate with you, whether it's a family member who isn't afraid to step up and confirm that you're getting the right drug or make sure that somebody's washing their hands or get a private patient advocate , someone you hire. there are a number of them out there, several hundred across the country.
>> also it's probably best if you get your bossy big sister because they're the best at telling the nurses you didn't watch your hands, you're not allowed to touch my sister. thanks a lot. i appreciate that.