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‘Be that squeaky wheel’: Surgeon working to solve hospital bed problems urges family involvement

Hospital Hallway
Posted at 7:00 PM, Jul 11, 2023

After LEX 18 told the story last month of a woman who raised questions about the condition of her mother’s hospital beds, an expert reached out encouraging others to look out for their family members who are patients at any hospital.

Dr. David Welsh is an Indiana surgeon and a member of the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health. He recently helped bring forward a resolution that passed in the association’s house of delegates that prioritizes the care and maintenance of hospital beds.

"I looked at a lot of different resources and found out how much of a problem it was particularly with certain types of infections," Welsh said.

Hospital beds and mattresses are not like beds and mattresses at home. Welsh said that the ones in hospitals are high-tech and have components that help prevent infection. When they aren’t working or maintained properly, it can cause infection and other issues, he said.

"Infections are everything from extending their stay in the hospital to … infections can lead to death,” Welsh said.

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services require hospitals to meet health and safety standards to be Medicare and Medicaid providers, and there are inspections for recertifications and after complaints, there are no specific regulations related to beds and mattresses.

Hospitals are expected to follow manufacturer guidelines on the maintenance of beds and mattresses, but ultimately it can come down to patients, family members and caregivers to point out problems, Welsh said.

“If you've got somebody in the hospital, please be that squeaky wheel,” Welsh said. “Advocate for that patient.”

For 87-year-old Barbara Switzer, her daughter Carol Plummer was that squeaky wheel. Plummer raised questions to Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington after she said she found problems with two different beds her mother was given.

Plummer took video of the second bed, which appeared to be damaged and had a large stain, and reached out to LEX 18 to tell her story last month.

“I would feel bad for anybody who had to go through all that who didn't have anybody with them,” Switzer told LEX 18. “God is good and granted me a daughter who stood right there.”

Caregivers and staff can’t be at patients’ bedsides at all times, so it’s important for family members to be present and advocate for relatives in a hospital, Welsh said.

“I would always encourage folks, family members who have got somebody in the hospital, please check on them,” Welsh said. “Whether it's a hospital, nursing home.”