Productivity Commission report on major medical errors – tip of the iceberg say lawyers

30 January 2014
Medical errors revealed in a Productivity Commission report on Australian public hospitals are likely to be the tip of the iceberg and underestimate the true scale of preventable poor health care outcomes, says Australia’s top medical law firm Maurice Blackburn.

The Productivity Commission report on Australian Government Services (health) shows an increase in deaths and serious injuries due to medical errors in public hospitals in 2011-12, especially maternal deaths and suicides in hospitals.

The report found the number of errors has risen from 87 in 2010-11 to 107.

The incidence of maternal deaths or serious morbidity associated with giving birth has nearly doubled from 13 to 24.

And there continue to be cases of instruments left in patients' bodies after surgery, medication errors and procedures involving the wrong patient or body part.

Maurice Blackburn's head of medical law Kathryn Booth said the report was an important way to learn from mistakes and improve the health care system, but that it didn't cover Australia's large and growing private health care system.

"We see from our work the devastating impacts that these kind of incidents have on individual patients and their families.

"While most people who use the healthcare system have a good experience and get high quality care and treatment, every day we receive inquiries from people who have been the victims of shortcomings.

"Public hospitals are not the only place where we see errors, we also see many cases against private hospitals, GPs, specialists and other health care professionals," Ms Booth said.

"There are many preventable errors and this is unacceptable."

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