Report: Babies born at military hospitals twice as likely to be injured during delivery

It’s a military family’s biggest healthcare decision–whether to be treated at a military hospital, or seek care in the civilian world.

For expecting moms, startling new statistics on child birth at military hospitals might have them running to private hospitals.

An investigation by the New York Times uncovered Pentagon statistics that show military hospitals, compared to civilian hospitals, had higher than expected rates of harm and complications when it came to maternity care and surgery.

More than 50,000 babies are born at military hospitals each year, but according to statistics uncovered by the New York Times, they are twice as likely to be injured during delivery as babies born at civilian hospitals.

In addition, mothers who delivered at military hospitals were more likely to hemorrhage after childbirth than mothers who delivered at civilian hospitals, according to a 2012 analysis conducted for the Pentagon.

The Times investigation also uncovered disturbing cases of malpractice in military hospitals.

One included a fetus dying after a surgeon operated on the wrong part of the mother’s body.

According to records obtained by the newspaper, the government paid an average of $100 million in malpractice claims each year from 2006-2010.

That included payment for claims concerning surgery, maternity and neonatal care.

Those numbers also don’t really tell the whole story, because active duty service members who use military hospitals are not allowed to sue for malpractice.

If they were, the Congressional Budget Office estimates those claims’ payouts would have tripled to $300 million a year.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all military hospitals just last month, saying he wanted to determine if they had the same problems the VA system has been dealing with.

Hagel said the review would study access to treatment, quality of care and patient safety.

78 comments

  • jordan

    I am an Active duty member who works at a military hospital and I have worked in Labor and delivery for 3 years and also worked for the military insurance. You can choose what doctor you want; all you have to do is ask we would follow our pts. Birth plan to the t unless there was a complication. One of the big problems is that Active duty member’s don’t know about how Tricare works or what they are entitled to because they don’t do there research or ask questions. They assume just because they are Active duty that they are assigned a PCM and have no say. This article is B.S it didn’t even give any numbers on what the percentage was compared to a civilian world. There are roughly 4 Million deliveries in the U.S each year and that is coming from the CDC and National Institute of Child Health. So of course it is going to look bad compared to the civilian sector. The fact is the problems can occur anywhere wither it’s in a MTF or civilian hospital.

  • rita

    I believe this article is garbage. I worked in military medicine for over 25 years and we had one concern the entire time and this “doctor” was taken out of practice in a heart beat. Second military hospitals follow the same standards as civilian hospitals – we are inspected by JC which is what civilian hospitals are inspected by. I worked in Orthopedics with doctors who graduated from Harvard, Duke, Mayo Clinic, and many more prestigious medical schools. Our podiatrists graduated from civilian medical schools. These doctors are far more honest, they don’t do surgery unless necessary. There are good and bad doctors everywhere. Many times a patient is responsible for their care or their lack of care. I remember one incident where a soldier lost his legs when a resident botched the surgery at one of the military hospitals. the media was all over it. What they failed to broadcast is that this resident was a UC Davis resident, not a military resident. The military medical personnel are caring wonderful people who dedicate their lives to taking care of soldiers and their families and I for one find this article a bunch of garbage!

  • Rachel

    This article does not surprise me. I just had a botched surgery by OB 6 weeks ago at Portsmouth and the Dr is trying to cover her tracks by blaming me for it! The experience was so horrendous that I told my husband there is NO way I will deliver there if we have another baby. I was also at Walter Reed taking care of my brother after he was injured several years ago and the care there was honestly frightening. Of course like the articles said active duty can’t sue so the voices of these poor but brave men and women arnt head. I really hope something is done for the families and the active duty.

    • Melissa

      Rachel, that is exactly why I switched from Portsmouth to the Bon secour group in Norfolk. One too many horror stories as of late for me to be comfortable. At least with civis I have some sort of recourse if there is an issue. And the mil docs tried telling me I miscarried at 8 weeks because she didn’t have the ultrasound positioned correctly to find my uterus… Yeah perfect hb of 180 when another came in to verify. Some mil docs scare me…

  • Jennifer

    I believe this 100%. I delivered my 1st child at a military hospital and it all went wrong. First problem, they broke my water way too soon. 1st doc came and said okay you’re dilated enough I’ll break your water. About 30 minutes later a different doc came in and asked why they broke it because I was only 1cm dilated. Then because I wasn’t ready baby didn’t like it too well and I had to get emergency c-section. I ended up hemorrhaging and received 5 units of blood. The whole time I’m in surgery my husband is standing outside the door waiting to be told to come in for the delivery. Over a three hour period not one person stopped to inform him of what was going on. After they finally stabalized me they walked out and told him, “Your wife lost a lot of blood almost loosing her life. We think we have it controlled now with a uterine balloon, but if she continues to bleed we will have to remove her uterus.” I was 21 years old at the time so you can only imagine the fear running through everyone’s mind. I was in ICU for 12 hours and then once they took me to MBU I realized I had vomitted on myself and nobody took the time to clean me up, get it out of my hair, or even give me a new gown.
    Thankfully my bleeding became more controlled and I was able to keep my uterus, but I will NEVER deliver at a military hospital again. After the fact I asked for my medical records. The hospital gave me everything up to the delivery, omitted that whole day, and gave me the following days. When I asked them for what I didn’t receive they told me I couldn’t get them unless I paid a fee. I was so stressed and was tired of trying so I just gave up.
    Worst experience of my life, and the sad part is that I know a few other people who have had horror stories of their own at the same hospital. If I could’ve sued I would have in a heart beat.

  • Monika

    This is not surprising at all. My daughter almost died after delivery. Her apgar dropped to 4, they rushed her away and I didn’t see her for 5 hours. Never received an explanation. Now 16 years later we are dealing with a lot of behavior and learning issues. Also the OB came in just in time to “catch” her and after I delivered she looked at her watch, decided she needed to speed things up as she was running late for a meeting and pulled on the umbilical cord ripping the placenta out of me. I bled and clotted a lot afterwards. Yeah I was not impressed at all. I couldn’t believe how I and my baby were treated. Sad part is that all things considered, we still had better care than my active duty husband.

  • Nicole

    I delivered at a military hospital and if it wasnt for the doctors and nurses there my son and I would not be here today! They saved both of our lives! There is good and bad in every hospital military and civilian. I am thankful to my doctors and nurses at the military hosptial I delivered at!

  • Laura

    I would like to know who to contact for a medical malpractice lawsuit. I was told I could not file by the doctor who delivered. My son ended up in EFMP cat 5. He had seizures due to his traumatic birth. Last year he went off of his meds. He is now five. Please help.

    • Jane

      Laura just heard from my active duty husband that the spouses immediate family has to file the malpractice claim, as we as the spouses (and therefore dependents) fall under the same catagory as active duty and are unable to claim.

      • Laura

        Jane,

        Thank you for the advice! I failed to mention he served his five years and is now in inactive reserves. Does this change anything? And just one more boost to get me started, if you don’t mind, would I have a family member contact a lawyer who would then contact the hospital I delivered at? I’m not typically the lawsuit type but if the money could start a college find, I’m all for it! Thank you again for any and all help.

  • Jac

    I recently had my first child. I delivered on Eglin AFB. The staff was great. And there were complications and I ended up having to have a c-section but still my experience there was good. Doctors and nurses were patient and never rushed. They took timr to explain and answer all my questions.

  • Lauren

    I kinda find it hard to believe to this extreme solely with labor and delivery. I had two amazing deliveries at army hospitals. First one my daughter was born combs positive and her bilirubin score was 24 basically near death. If it wasn’t for the staffs quick thinking even though they had a lack of knowledge with rh negative and combs babies she wouldn’t be here Today! Everything went fast and smooth during labor!
    Second daughter I was high risk and had to drive to Nashville every week for ultrasounds and dr visits as well as on post dr appts. The dr on post wouldn’t allow me to get even close to delivering on my own and induced me ( which was a piece of cake compared to the back labor I had before ) . They were amazing and very quick at the delivery preventing several possible delivery complications. Ill be honest I was nervous using military drs with such a high risk pregnancy but they were awesome and couldn’t have asked for a better experience both times!

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