National Press Club

Actor seeks media aid in sounding alert for health care safety

April 12, 2010 | By Terry Hill |

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Watching his newborn twins hang in the balance between life and death for 41 hours, actor Dennis Quaid realized he'd found a new role to play - front man for the reform of health care safety.

Calling health care accidents one of the leading causes of death in America, he implored the news media in the National Press Club audience April 12 to “help us tell, not just the stories of harm, but of great caregivers dedicated to safe, high-performance care.”

In Washington to announce the release of a new patient-safety manual, the 56-year-old star described the desperate moments that followed learning that his children were the victims of an accidental dose of the anti-coagulant, heparin.

“I had faith I was in a safe place. ... Little did I know how dangerous any hospital could be,” he said.

The twins pulled through, and today are active, energetic kids. But the incident launched Quaid and his wife, Kimberly Buffington, on a mission to serve as advocates for improving the quality and safety of health care in the United States.

“I believe there was a reason this incident happened,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.”

Asked about the role faith played in his family’s crisis, he said, “I always had strong faith in God … (The accident) really woke me up to the power of prayer. It really does work.”

The couple established the Quaid Foundation for Patient Safety as a vehicle to raise awareness of the dangers of health care safety. The effort focuses on improvements through medical leadership, safe practices and technology. Health care safety accidents can be reduced to almost zero, he Quaid.

“My mission is to drive awareness,” he said. “Real health care reform is impossible without dramatically cutting harm.”

He said he is confident the private sector can improve health care safety, saying he would like to see more of involvement from the sector, not just “government handouts.”

Asked if he was just another celebrity with a cause, Quaid said that serving as a highly visible advocate was something he didn’t plan on, but after witnessing the danger faced by his twins - and realizing that so many people don’t have a voice to express their concerns - he and his wife were compelled to get involved.