The I-Team has been looking into reports of errors at hospital facilities all over the state and despite big changes by the health care industry, the numbers are not getting much better.
Whether it’s an emergency or a long-planned procedure, a stay at a hospital can be a stressful time.
That’s why Jean Rexford of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety is so alarmed by the latest data on healthcare mistakes.
“Wrong surgical procedure, there were four of those and I don't know how,” Rexford said.
The I-Team dug through three years of state reporting on adverse events at Connecticut Hospitals.
When compared to total patients, the 471 reported incidents make for a tiny percentage. However, that doesn’t matter for the patients involved.
“You have to remember, with every number there's a family associated, and not only is there a family associated, there's an enormous cost,” Rexford said.
In 2014, the latest year data was available, there were 15 cases of surgeries performed on the wrong site. That’s up from 13 the year before.
There were also four reports of the wrong surgery being performed. That’s up 400 percent compared to 2013.
There were 24 cases where a foreign object was left behind after surgery.
Those were major areas where the numbers either went up or stayed about the same.
“I don't know quite what we should do next,” Rexford said. “I have heard them feel badly, say next year the number are going to be better, but they're not.”
“We like transparency,” said Dr. Mary Cooper, M.D., Connecticut Hospital Association. “We want patients to be aware of what's going on in hospitals.”
Cooper said she’s in charge of quality for the Connecticut Hospital Association. She noted that reports jumped sharply several years ago because mistakes were being reported instead of hidden.
Now that they have better numbers, they’re trying to lower the incidents by looking at fields like nuclear power, aviation and even amusement parks.
“If you've ever gone to an amusement park, all of the rides that are taken, the few injuries that occur, that's high reliability,” Cooper said.
However, the I-Team pointed out to Cooper that reports of stuck roller coasters are rare enough to make headlines. Yet there were 471 adverse incidents in 2014 that haven’t been in the news until now.
In the areas the I-Team checked, things aren’t getting much better.
“I don't think there's cause for alarm that it's plateaued,” Cooper said. “I think we're all committed to getting to zero, but we all recognize it's a journey to get there.”
The I-Team asked both experts what patients can do.
Rexford said don’t be a patient. Instead, be a consumer and ask exactly how the hospital will keep someone safe.
“Say I'm totally neurotic, I'm totally afraid,” she said. “I want to make sure that your hospital has a system in place so I can have good outcomes.”
Cooper said the hospitals want patients to speak up.
“There have been instances where the patient knew something was wrong and didn't speak up,” she said. “Or a staff member knew something was wrong and didn't speak up. That's what we're trying to change in the culture.”
The data can be broken down by individual hospitals.
To see the report, click here.
For a guide to being a smart consumer of health care, check out the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety here.
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