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Study says some hospitals lack policy for certain surgical errors

For patients who go to the hospital for a surgical procedure, there is an inherent trust that goes into allowing doctors and operating room staff to perform it. It is a tragic reality, though, that there are occasionally mistakes made, whether it is wrong-site surgery, surgical equipment left inside a patient, or some other form of a surgeon mistake. Research is undertaken to see how and why these surgical errors happen, as well as to determine how facilities deal with it. One study in particular found that one hospital out of five in the U.S. has failed to adopt a protocol to deal with what are known as "never events."

"Never events" are incidents that should not happen under any circumstances. The study, based on information from the Leapfrog Group's 2015 Hospital Survey, discusses mistakes made with medication, objects left inside a patient, surgery on the wrong body part, and more. Hospitals are expected to take action to handle these mistakes with the following: issuing an apology to the patient and the family; reporting the event to regulatory agencies within 10 days of finding out it happened; looking into the cause; waiving costs to the patient; and making a copy of the policy for the patients and whomever is paying the bills.

The number of hospitals that took part in the survey has risen to 46 percent across the nation with 60 percent of hospital beds in the U.S. According to the information, 80 percent of the hospitals that took part met Leapfrog's standards when it comes to these events. What that also means is the one out of five do not have such a policy. The number of hospitals that have a policy for this problem has been stuck at the same number for the past five years. In addition, in spite of the increase in hospitals that take part in the survey, many are not reporting their policy for preventing and handling never events.

This is troubling, as never events are far too common. Wrong-site surgery happens once every 100,000 procedures or so, and objects are left inside a patient once out of every 10,000 procedures. Although that is a low risk, there can be severe complications and even death caused by such a mistake. Those who have been harmed by this type of error need to know how to move forward to seek compensation for their damages. Discussing the matter with a legal professional who is experienced in a wide variety of surgical errors may help with the development of a legal strategy.

Source: The American Journal of Managed Care, "One in 5 US Hospitals Fail to Adopt 'Never Events' Policies," Jackie Syrop, July 10, 2016

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