Report: 1 in 18 Canadian Hospital Patients Experience Harm From Preventable Errors

Report: 1 in 18 Canadian Hospital Patients Experience Harm From Preventable Errors

138,000 people admitted to a Canadian hospital per year faced a harmful event that was potentially preventable

Pretty well everyone has heard a horror story about a serious hospital mishap: a medication mix-up; a sponge or retractor left in a patient after surgery; the wrong kidney removed.

So it would be no surprise if some patients facing an operation or admission to a medical ward may be somewhat anxious about their care.

And that begs the question: just how safe are Canada's hospitals?

As it turns out, 138,000 — or one in every 18 — patients admitted to a Canadian hospital in 2014-15 suffered some kind of harmful event that could potentially have been prevented, from getting the wrong drug to developing an infection, a report released Wednesday has found.

Of those 138,000 patients, about 30,000 had more than one adverse event that compromised their care.

"We know that most patients experience safe care, but when harm happens there's a big impact on patients, families and the health team," said Kathleen Morris, vice-president of research and analysis at the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which compiled the report.

"Preventable harm can occur in all areas of the hospital and it's everyone's responsibility to learn as best they can from these events and work to reduce the potential for harm."

The report, released in conjunction with the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, says the one-in-18 ratio represents almost six per cent of the 2.5 million patients admitted each year to both large and small hospitals across the country, excluding Quebec.

Those most at risk for hospital-related harms are patients with multiple medical conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, who have several specialists involved in their care, said Morris, adding that the more complex a patient's health status, the higher the rate of harmful incidents.

"We also know that harmful events have the potential to cause serious illness and even death," she said, but added that data collected by CIHI couldn't show whether harmful incidents directly caused fatalities.

"The death might be due to the harmful event or it could equally be due to a patient who is at higher risk of dying because he or she had more complex conditions."

Of the 138,000 patients identified in the report, 17,300 — or one in eight — died while in hospital.

Read more from CBC.ca here

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