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Death by Medicine: Hospital death toll alarming

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Hospital death toll alarming
By KRISTEN ENEVOLD, CALGARY SUN
Source: The Calgary Sun

Thousands of hospitalized Canadians have needlessly died because of what the medical community calls "adverse events," authors of a first-time national study have revealed. And the figures are troubling, Calgary Health Region officials admit.

"Certainly, there's work that needs to be done in patient-safety areas, and I think studies like this are going to help focus our attention and efforts on patient safety -- there's progress to be made here," said Jack Davis, CHR president and CEO. "Canada does compare favourably on patient safety rates, compared with other countries."

Led by University of Calgary researcher Dr. Peter Norton and a Toronto colleague, The Canadian Adverse Events Study suggests between 9,250 and 23,750 hospital deaths could have been prevented in the fiscal year 2000.

Almost one in 13 people, admitted to hospital nationwide that year, experienced some kind of adverse event. The most serious cases ranged from an abdominal aneurysm that was diagnosed as a kidney stone, causing the death of one patient, to the unscheduled removal of ovaries in what was meant to be a partial hysterectomy.

While most who experienced an adverse event didn't suffer permanent disability, 37% of cases were found to be entirely preventable.

The study comes in the midst of an independent review to be completed for the CHR in June, after dialysis patients Kathleen Prowse and Bart Wassing died earlier this year.

Both received potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride at Foothills Hospital during their treatments, several days apart.

Another official believes eliminating a culture within the medical community that prevents people from reporting errors is key to making sure such incidents never happen.

"It's a really important, but a really tough thing to do," said Dr. Ward Flemons, chairman of the CHR's patient safety task group.

Davis said the region will now find ways to implement both reports into its operations.

The study will appear in this month's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

- - -

MEDICAL MISTAKES

* One in 13 people who go into hospital suffer an adverse event.

* Based on 2.5-million admissions in 2000, that means 140,000 to 232,000 people suffered them.

* 37% of those were preventable.

* These events added an average of six days to a hospital stay.

* One in five people who had an adverse event went on to die; 9% of adverse events were categorized as highly preventable.

* The most common types of adverse events related to surgeries, followed by drug- or fluid-related events.

SEE ALSO

- U.S. medical system creates errors (United Press International)

- Death By Medicine (Life Extension)



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