Report Shows Hospital Stays Can Be Risky

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A new government study says that more than 15,000 deaths a month are caused by hospital errors.

"We have to do better," Dr. Donald Berwick, a well-known quality-care specialist and the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services studied 780 Medicare patient records from October 2008.

The agency found that one in seven Medicare patients suffered harm while hospitalized. Most patients had problems with low blood sugar or were given I-V fluids too quickly.

Those errors often required a longer hospital stay and in some cases caused death. Experts say 44 percent of them could have been prevented.

Hospital errors cost taxpayers about $4.4 billion a year.

The idea that hospitals are dangerous places, rife with infection and opportunities for errors, isn't new. A decade ago, the Institute of Medicine warned that up to 98,000 people a year die from medical mistakes alone.

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