Entrusting your health, or the health of a loved one, to a medical care facility is a life-altering decision. It’s critical to know if there have been victims of medical malpractice, negligence, or abuse in the healthcare facility you are researching.
This article will provide information on how to find complaints filed against a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility in Pennsylvania. We’ll also discuss the most common types of complaints, and where to research the professional history of a doctor or other healthcare provider. For further information, get in touch with one of our medical malpractice or nursing home abuse attorneys with questions.
Learn About Complaints Against a Hospital or Other Healthcare Facility
The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains official records about the history and status of healthcare facilities in the state. The Department website offers a variety to valuable services. In addition to healthcare facility reports, users can gain access to information such as how to obtain birth and death certificates, COVID-19 and vaccine-related updates, and PA state medical news, public health issues, and data dashboards.
Those looking to learn more about a hospital or other healthcare facility’s inspection and complaint history can find this information free of charge from the Department of Health online. The Department databank contains documentation of survey results and complaints filed against the following types of facilities:
- Nursing Homes
- Home Healthcare and Hospice Agencies
- Ambulatory Surgical Facilities
- In-Patient Facilities for Extended Care
- Rehabilitation Agencies
- Birth Centers
- Heath Clinics and Out-Patient Therapy Clinics
- Kidney Dialysis Centers
For any of these types of organizations, information regarding complaint and investigation history can be found by clicking the facility type on the webpage. All facilities except nursing homes can be located by county on a state care facility map. If you don’t find the information you’re looking for, you can contact the Department by phone or email. And if you need to file a complaint about a facility yourself, an online form is available.
Learn About Nursing Home Complaints and Investigations
Because of the vulnerability of those living in nursing homes, this type of facility requires special attention to ensure the safety of older adult residents. Pennsylvania’s Division of Nursing Care Facilities conducts regular visits to all the nursing homes in the state. Surveyors investigate to determine a nursing home’s compliance with state and federal regulations. These visits include yearly surveys, routine visits, follow-up visits, and investigations of complaints and abuse allegations. The results of these inspections are posted on the Department of Health website.
The information published on the Department of Health website related to nursing homes across the state includes:
- Complaint history
- Patient care survey results
- Building safety inspections reports
- Type of ownership
- Any areas not in compliance with state or federal laws
- Level of potential harm posed to residents
- Plans for correction of deficient areas
Types of Complaints
The types of complaints a healthcare facility receives is highly dependent upon the quality of service, the services offered, and the patients served. When researching the complaints filed against a hospital or nursing home, try to keep in mind that one complaint does not necessarily mean that a facility should be avoided at all costs. Any disgruntled patient on a bad day can file a complaint that will remain on a facility’s record. However, if there are patterns of repeated behavior, unaddressed issues that continue for several months or longer, obvious staffing issues, or instances of harm or abuse, you may have good reason to look for medical care elsewhere.
The following types of complaints are the ones most commonly received by hospitals:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors
- Inappropriate or unnecessary surgery
- Failing to obtain consent
- Premature discharge and incomplete discharge instructions
Nursing homes most often receive complaints related to:
- Evidence of abuse and neglect
- Slow response times to calls
- Inadequate staffing
- Poor food quality
- Lack of social interactions and personal relationships
- Improper response to COVID-19
Finding a Doctor’s Malpractice History in Pennsylvania
There may also be situations in which you need to find out if your doctor has ever been sued. This information can be found through your State Medical Board. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) publishes an online directory of medical board contact information by state. The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, located in Harrisburg, PA, can be reached by phone, mail, email, in person, or online. The Medical Board’s contact information and hours can be found on the official webpage.
The PA State Board of Medicine holds records of medical malpractice lawsuits and disputes. It also possess the authority to take disciplinary or corrective action against medical professionals as necessary. Professionals regulated by the PA Medical Board include doctors, physician assistants, technicians, therapists, nurses, midwives, and other specialists.
In order to access records showing whether a medical practitioner has been sued, a patient or potential patient will need to go to the Consumer Information page of the PA government’s State Medical Board webpage and select the “Create a Ticket” option. There, you will be able to perform the following actions free of charge:
- Download legal documents and view disciplinary actions against medical professionals
- Verify the license status of a medical practitioner
- File a complaint to request that the Department of State initiate an investigation
- Request additional information regarding a person, organization, incident, or general inquiry
Choosing the Right Hospital or Nursing Home
When you are choosing a hospital to deliver a child, interviewing long-term care facilities for an older relative, or researching the best place to have surgery, the decision is a very personal one, and not one to be taken lightly. In other situations, you may not have the luxury of choice, and knowing the complaints other patients have voiced is a way to help protect yourself against potential harm.
It’s always good practice to know your rights, keep good lines of communication open with your medical providers, and be educated and informed about your own healthcare plan. It’s also helpful to keep on the lookout for red flags like hurried and unfriendly staff, rude behaviors, unhappy patients and residents, dirty facilities, and unavailable personnel. These practices can help you or a loved one avoid a situation in which the best medical care is not received—or worse, negligence or abuse is allowed to happen.
If you have any questions related to medical malpractice or nursing home neglect, abuse, or exploitation, reach out to our law firm at Shrager & Sachs for a free consultation.