1. I have spent no shortage of time in hospitals.
  2. Readers say to me, “Dave, I’ve read your columns and frankly, you are sick.”

Ergo, hospitals make you sick? Here are ten reasons that could be true.

NOSOCOMIAL INFECTIONS are infections picked up in the hospital. Institutions like hospitals, prisons, Charlie Sheen can be bug brewing factories. MRSA(superbug), scabies, viruses and the evil C. difficile. “Welcome to Ward 3, Bloggins. Here are your dinner choices and over here you can pick your nosocomials.”

MEDICATION ERRORS. Whether by a nurse or a doctor, I should point out that if there is any question, then it is preferable to blame the nurse. Doctors write beautifully and legibly as any pharmacist will attest. I once ordered 6 U of insulin for a patient who was mistakenly “given 60”, as the panicked nurse gasped to me over the phone. “How’s he doing?” I asked. “Shaky.”

SURGICAL ERRORS does not always refer to the surgeon cutting off the wrong leg, testicle or heart, but can also mean accidentally cauterizing the graplihornswaggle artery rather than the intended snorghoplaster vein. And of course there is the occasional object left behind in the patient such as a swab, scissors, scrub nurse.

Dr. David Hepburn
Dr. David Hepburn

ADVERSE DRUG REACTIONS are the 8th leading cause of death in North America, as, until genetic drug screening is available, drug therapy can be a bit of a shotgun approach. Be alert, aware and a tad suspect should you be ordered a new drug with names like Widocillin, Nokhel, Kriplex and Urispas (actual names of drugs).

WRONG DIAGNOSIS. Just watch any episode of HOUSE where the staff usually takes the patient to the brink of death before House’s epiphany de jour as a basketball hits him in the left uvula giving him the idea that they’ve been treating the wrong problem all along.

FALLS /TRAUMA. Hospital cleaners seem trained to add extra wax in the rooms of the most frail and confused patients. Sick and often drugged patients have to get up to take a poop and end up performing a triple lutz, ending with an unceremonious splat.

COMPLICATIONS OF INVESTIGATIONS. One apparent abnormality can lead to another to yet another. These so called “incidentalomas” can trigger aggressive or invasive investigations.

“WellDr. Sealey, looks like that zit really was a zit. OK I’ll sew the patient up, you put the catheter in and we’ll send him to ICU.”

BEDSORES. Decubitus ulcers can get infected and very nasty, which is why I write in the orders, “apply turning over the patient like a lamb on a spit.” But, my beautiful penmanship aside, this can get interpreted as “apple turnover the patient until they spit.”

BLOOD CLOT. Anytime a patient is not doing hot yoga and dancing the macarena sixteen minutes after completing surgery, there is a risk that they could develop a blood clot in their legs. This clot can pop off and go to the lungs, uvula or Sudbury. It is vital, post operatively, to move your limbs and shake what your plastic surgeon gave ya’, as we’d hate to have to crack open the Widocillin.

Dave Hepburn
Dave Hepburn

WRONG PATHOLOGY RESULTS. This actually happened to me when I was a patient. I recognized the mistake when my biopsy report said I was expecting twins in six months! But being the astute physician I am, I quickly recognized this as a lab error. I could only hear one heart beat. Yes readers…I might be sick.


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