PC Report shows marginal decline in serious medical errors, but preventable incident rates remain a concern

1 February 2017
The latest Productivity Commission report into Australian public hospitals has shown a marginal national decline in the number of serious medical errors, but concerns remain at high rates of maternal deaths and inpatient suicides, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said today.

The Report on Government Services (health) 2017 has found there were 99 sentinel events nationally in 2014-15, with the highest reported incidents relating to retained medical instruments (33 incidents), inpatient suicides (30 incidents), medication errors (14 incidents) and maternal deaths (14 incidents).

The 99 events for 2014-15 compare to 102 reported events for the previous year.

Maurice Blackburn’s head of medical negligence Kathryn Booth said the marginal national decline in overall events, including in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, was welcome but that high rates of preventable incidents remained a concern.

Incidents in the Northern Territory had remained stable compared to the previous year, whilst incidents in South Australia had risen from 6 events to 9.

“Whilst this marginal decline is welcome, we know that one incident is too many and in the case of maternal deaths and inpatient suicides in particular these are very tragic incidents, as we have seen too often with many of our own clients,” Ms Booth said.

“Unfortunately we also know that many of the events still being reported at higher rates are preventable, including instruments being retained post-surgery and medication errors, all of which can have an impact on patients who may require follow-up surgeries.

“The rates of maternal deaths nationally particularly remains of concern, however we welcome that a number of major initiatives to address this are now underway, including in Victoria where further comprehensive measures to address patient safety have been announced today.

“We also continue to call for greater scrutiny of the private health system on the reporting of adverse events – we know that negligent incidents are not isolated to public hospitals, indeed many incidents also occur in private hospitals and specialist clinics, and we would welcome greater reporting of these to ensure patients are properly informed,” she said.

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