The latest edition of the New South Wales Auditor-General’s report on the health care sector revealed 22 so-called “sentinel events:” problems that have to be addressed in the months and years ahead. While the goal of the NSW medical system is to reduce the number of sentinel events year over year, these occurrences are actually on the rise.
While some of the state’s health care facilities lowered their number of sentinel events, the overall trend is worrying. Incidents causing significant injury or death are always worth paying attention to, and NSW Health will have to determine systematic improvements to reverse the increase.
Tracking possible medical negligence
According to the Auditor-General, there were two common types of sentinel incident that stood out over the past four years. The first involved medical materials being left inside patients after surgery, requiring extra surgery to remove. The second was the death of an inpatient by suicide. In 2019, there were 11 incidents of surgical instruments being left behind during operations, and four suicides.
The total of 22 sentinel events in 2018-2019 exceeded the 18 in 2017-2018 and the 14 in 2016-2017. The average incidence rate for 2018-2019 was one such problem per 86,931 discharged patients. While three entities reduced their sentinel event total in the most recent recording period, six facilities suffered more of these issues instead of fewer. The single most affected entity was South Western Sydney LHD, with five events.
Getting government reactions
When asked for comment about the rise in problems, NSW Health told 7NEWS that the system is dealing with immense strain because the population of NSW is rising and aging. Emergency Departments have had to handle 1 million people across the first four months of the current financial year, up 6% from 2018.
NSW Health added that despite the fact that the Auditor-General found a financial net positive for 2018-2019, the system is not declining to spend on necessary improvements. The health body told the news publication it creates incident mitigation strategies when its reporting mechanisms and policies detect problems such as those found in the audit.
Bringing medical negligence cases
If you have been harmed by medical negligence, you may be able to claim damages. While the statute of limitations is typically three years, there are exceptions – and an expert legal advisor can find out whether you qualify.
If you think you may be eligible, you can contact Gerard Malouf and Partners. Call 1 800 004 878 for over-the-phone advice or to schedule a free face-to-face consultation.