Medical Misadventures Rising In Hospital

Mistakes Can (And Do) Happen In Hospitals

Public hospitals in New Zealand have had 127 people die, linked to 374 “serious and sentinel events”, the Health Quality and Safety Commission says in its 2009-2010 report. The commission — due to be established as a Crown entity by the end of the year — said the 374 were hurt in hospitals in events that were preventable.

“Of those people, 127 died during admission or shortly afterwards, although not necessarily as a result of the event,” the commission said in a statement. “Half of these deaths occurred through suicide.”

The events were traumatic and often tragic for the patients and their families, distressing for clinical staff, and costly for the health care system and society as a whole, the commission said.

“We can — and must — learn from them, and reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future”.

The report was the fourth annual “serious and sentinel events” set of data for the health sector.

It included any event reported by a district health board (DHB) which caused, or had the potential to cause, serious lasting disability or death, not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness or underlying condition.

Similar to last year, falls (34 percent), clinical management problems (33 percent) and suicides (17 percent) were the three most commonly reported serious and sentinel events for 2009/2010, said Professor Alan Merry chairman of commission’s interim board.

In the previous year, there were 308 serious incidents involving 92 patient deaths — although officials said at the time that the deaths were “not necessarily” caused by the event — and in the year before that 258 cases where patients were seriously hurt, including at least 76 unnecessary deaths.

Previously health officials have said falls are “inevitable” after patients had undergone surgery or were on medication which affected their mobility.

ACC (New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation) data released this year, showed payments to victims of botched surgery, missed diagnosis and other “treatment injuries” were set to top $90m in 2009 – the highest total so far.

The biggest individual ACC payout – more than $233,000 – went to a patient who suffered a haemorrhage during treatment, and between January and September, ACC paid more than $70m in new and continuing treatment injury and medical misadventure claims.

But the ACC figures showed many treatment injuries happened in the community. Patients were more likely to be injured at their local doctor’s clinic than anywhere else except for orthopaedic treatment, with GPs and practice nurses involved in 518 successful claims.

Eric’s Comment: Is it any wonder? We end up losing all our top doctors to Australia, we pay who we do have here peanuts. We have too few quality medical professionals in New Zealand, and like Australia, country regions end up short changed. Doctors end up stressed, burned out and because they are human and under enormous pressure, flawed decisions costing people’s lives are made. It is about time we integrated professional natural medicine practitioners into a sick hospital system relying on chemical drugs and surgeries to “heal” patients. You would think that in the 21st century, New Zealand could move on from the “sickness management system” into what really should be the health care system, a system that takes into account the real causes behind chronic ill health – faulty modes of living including diet, nutrition, no exercise, and little to no stress management.
It is also true that patients need to be much more accountable and responsible for the decisions they themselves make concerning their health and wellbeing, and not expect the current system to “cure them” any more than a loan shark can cure a person with a gambling addiction.

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