Report: U.S. Hospitals Spend $2 Billion Each Year Replacing Gowns Taken By Escaped Patients

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Report: U.S. Hospitals Spend $2 Billion Each Year Replacing Gowns Taken By Escaped Patients

One of the millions of hospital patients who escape each year, costing U.S. medical facilities billions in gown and slipper costs.
One of the millions of hospital patients who escape each year, costing U.S. medical facilities billions in gown and slipper costs.

WASHINGTON—Amidst rapidly rising costs throughout the health care system, a report published Wednesday by the American Hospital Association has found that nearly $2 billion is spent each year replacing gowns taken by patients who escape from the nation’s medical centers.

The report, based upon inventory and expenditure data gathered from hospitals in all 50 states, found that patients who open one eye to make sure no one is watching, sit bolt upright in bed, and then flee medical facilities while still wearing hospital-issued gowns have significantly cut into health providers’ bottom lines and made it difficult for these institutions to ensure they maintain an adequate stock of such garments.

“The average hospital spends 43 percent of its annual supply budget on gowns, losing them every time an escaping patient waits for the nurse at the front desk to become distracted and then darts past while holding up a medical chart to hide their face,” said AHA president Richard Umbdenstock, who noted that countless hours of productivity are also lost whenever doctors spend a portion of their day frantically searching through hallways until they finally spot the escapee and shout for security to grab them. “Every time these patients peer carefully out of a doorway, steady their nerves with a deep breath, and then make a break for it down the intensive care ward corridor and toward the exit, they drive up medical costs.”

“Because once they go out those doors and speed off in a hijacked ambulance, we almost never get those gowns back,” Umbdenstock added.

The report discovered that the drain on resources further extends to white lab coats and stethoscopes, which are said to be frequently donned by fleeing patients who avoid pursuers by ducking into open supply closets, emerging moments later in garb that often allows them to pass as health care professionals.

In addition, Umbdenstock confirmed, health care facilities must pay millions of dollars to resterilize instruments that fall to the ground from carts every time fleeing patients crash into them as they sprint around a corner while making their getaway.According to the report, a patient’s escape often costs hospitals much more than the price of a single gown. Many escapees leave medical centers on the hook for up to $30,000 in damages, which begin to mount the moment fleeing patients rip the electrodes off their chest, and further accrue as they carelessly knock over their IV pole in their frenzy to run off, frequently spilling costly intravenous medication all over the floor.

“Aside from the equipment costs, many hospitals must pay workers’ compensation claims due to the physical injuries that staff members suffer when a patient on the run suddenly wheels a gurney into their path to impede their pursuit,” Umbdenstock said. “And if the escapee beats them to a waiting elevator, they are often hurt again when, running at full speed, they slam into doors that close just in the nick of time.”

“And this is to say nothing of the $185 million hospitals pay every year in added heating costs when doctors arrive to a room only to find an empty bed where the patient used to be and a wide-open window with the curtains billowing in the breeze,” he added.

The report discovered that the drain on resources further extends to white lab coats and stethoscopes, which are said to be frequently donned by fleeing patients who avoid pursuers by ducking into open supply closets, emerging moments later in garb that often allows them to pass as health care professionals.

Moreover, records suggest the nation’s hospitals are forced to pay an additional $8.6 billion in malpractice lawsuits each year when these individuals enter directly into an operating theater by accident where, because their identity has been obscured by a stolen surgical mask, they are mistaken for a scrub nurse and asked to hand instruments to a surgeon performing an appendectomy.

“Of course, these costs all double when patients escape in pairs, with one posing as a doctor and pushing the other in a wheelchair,” Umbdenstock said. “That’s twice the clothing we have to replace. But fortunately for hospitals’ finances, the wheelchair is almost always recovered when an orderly in pursuit of the fleeing duo later finds it toppled on its side in the parking lot with one wheel still spinning.”


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