MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 11, 2013

Patient safety advocate speaks at EASTAR

Man has mission to help reveal ‘blind spots’

A “tireless advocate for patient safety,” Ridley Barron shared the story about his son who died after receiving a lethal dose of medicine while being treated at a Georgia hospital.

Barron, a Tennessee pastor, shared that story with health care professionals and other staffers at EASTAR Health System. His presentation was one of scores he has made during the past nine and a half years as part of a negotiated deal with God.

His story begins in 2004, when he and his family were returning home from vacation. The Barron family car was struck by a another vehicle driven by a man who drove past a stop sign without yielding.

Barron, his daughter and oldest son survived the crash, but his wife died at the scene. Medical professionals expected the couple’s 17-month-old son would survive injuries he sustained after being ejected from the car, but he died due to the medication error.

Barron’s first instinct, because of his temperament and his pastoral profession, was to forgive — he initially told hospital administrators he had no plans to sue them “to get rich.” But that changed during subsequent conversations when they tried to devalue his son’s life, which angered him and raised questions about the honesty of his son’s caregivers and hospital administrators.

The experience resulted in what Barron described as a negotiation with God in an effort to make sense of the situation. That deal evolved into mission that has taken him to hospitals and seminars to help health care professionals recognize the “blind spots” that can develop in the health care field.

Tony Young, chief executive officer at EASTAR, said a 1999 study conducted by the Institute of Medicine found there were 44,000 to 98,000 deaths a year caused by medical errors in American hospitals. Despite safety initiatives and programs put in place since then, that number is estimated to have grown from 210,000 to 440,000 deaths a year.

Barron offered seven core principles he and many health care professionals believe will improve patient care and curb those types of mistakes. But he cited two factors that can create the “blind spots” that can lead to medical errors: routine and overconfidence.

“Some of the hardest people to speak to in this profession is the veteran of 20 years who has never made a mistake and they think they are untouchable,” Barron said. “It is hard to get through that shell and have them understand that because of the fact you are a human being you can do this.”

Young agreed, saying health care professionals need constant reminders about the critical nature of what they do day in and day out. Safety and quality care, Young said, “has to be our No. 1 priority.”

“We need reminders because the health care workers, like anybody, can get in routines, and that is when things can happen,” Young said. “This will be a wake-up call for everybody ... It’s time that we keep making sure we are getting better and better, and we create that environment — that culture — where we can talk about things ... (and) put all those layers of protection in so it doesn’t get to the bedside.”

Denise Roberts, a radiation therapist at EASTAR who clearly was moved by Barron’s message, said while she hasn’t seen any blind spots there she can see how medical errors can happen.

“There are people who have jobs that have forgotten, or their heart has forgotten, because they have gotten so busy or frustrated,” Roberts said.

Barron said that is why “every half-second counts” in the medical profession when it comes to patient safety.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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