Canada is another place in North America where medical errors occur at a higher rate than some might like to admit, but as you’ll soon see, some Canadian hospitals are working hard to reduce the likelihood of errors.
Errors More Frequent During Surgical Procedures
In the best case scenarios, the worst mistakes any of us would encounter at a hospital might be related to a misspelled name on a patient chart, or an oversight in a scheduled time for a diagnostic test. However, as a 2008 study published in the Qual Saf Health Care journal found, about 40 to 50 percent of hospital-related errors are connected to surgical procedures, and might include objects left inside a person who’s had an incision and then been stitched up. For that reason, many hospitals have instituted checklists to help healthcare providers remember to thoroughly conclude a surgery without overlooking any final steps.
Insisting on Regular Reporting
Until the early 2000s, hospitals in Canada did not have a framework in place for reporting serious events that resulted in a patient’s severe injury or death. Saskatchewan and Quebec were among the first provinces to begin the practice of incident reporting, and other areas eventually followed suit. Although it’s a step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go. Most Canadian hospitals are required to report events to the hospital board and the family members of affected persons, but even then it’s suspected these guidelines are not always followed. Quebec is one place in Canada that’s begun attempting to make reporting practices more regular, and properly cataloged. In 2011, hospitals in Quebec began tracking patient incidents through an online database. If you are in the US, see biggest hospital in us by size
Ontario’s Patient Safety Database
An organization called Health Safety Ontario has also begun publicly sharing indicators of hospital safety including hand washing compliance, hospital-based infection events, hospital mortality rates and steps that are taken to prevent surgical sites from becoming infected. This information is compiled and made available so potential patients can compare results across hospitals and see how Ontario as a whole ranks in hospital safety in contrast to other Canadian provinces.
Challenges Still Remain
As the examples above indicate, Canada is making an effort to reduce the occurrences of medical errors in hospitals. Although some provinces have made incident reporting mandatory, there are still suspicions reporting is not being performed properly, perhaps because people are unsure of which sorts of incidents must be reported, or are afraid of repercussions such as losing their jobs or being placed on probation. To help with the second factor, some hospitals have adopted “No blame, no shame” policies.
Further complicating this issue is the fact that statistics about the incidences of preventable death in Canada are difficult to pin down, outdated or both. For example, in 2004, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study which found that somewhere between 9,000 and 24,000 Canadians die annually from preventable medical deaths. Regardless of where that number stands in current times, it’ll be interesting to see if the strategies outlined above are as effective as many hope they will be.