Investigators look into potential medical negligence in Canberra hospital

Date: Nov 14, 2013

The Canberra Times is investigating a suspicious incident at a Canberra Hospital in which a patient died because of serious human error. The medical center, however, has been reluctant to release in-depth information on the death.

So far the investigation has concluded the death of the patient was the result of a "catastrophic" error. However, ACT Health, led by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, has not released the specifics of the incident.

This isn't the first time ACT Health has withheld information regarding a patient death, though. There are three other cases of medical mistakes that there is very limited information on. What is known, however, is that two of these mistakes were considered "major" errors that resulted in patients permanently losing some body functions.

Historically, ACT Health has provided information as long as a formal request was submitted. But this hasn't been the case so far in 2013, with the organisation skirting the issue by claiming the information cannot be released due to patient confidentiality.

The probe into the incidents is part of a bigger investigation The Canberra Times is conducting on medical negligence in Australian hospitals. So far, the news source has found there has been a 523 per cent jump in compensation payouts – and two deaths – directly linked to medical negligence.

The faces of medical negligence

One of the earliest instances of medical negligence occurred in 2005, when patient Hue Le died after coming in contact with infectious cannula.

After that, Suki Thurairajah died in 2011 when hospital staff members reportedly inserted an oxygen tube into the oesophagus instead of the windpipe. Later, Susan Ring went blind when she was prescribed the wrong medicine.

The rising prevalence of alleged medical negligence in Australian hospitals is also evidenced by the 2011-2012 Health Care Complaint Commission annual report.

The commission said 194 complaints "raised serious issues that warranted investigation" in 2012, and another 222 investigations were finalised. The group's legal division finalised 94 complaints last year.

There were several medical negligence cases noted in the report. One was in regards to a man who was hit by a car and died from his injuries. In the ensuing investigation, officials said the small rural hospital in which he received treatment could have improved communication substantially, which could have potentially saved his life.

Those who have been injured or lost loved ones in potential medical negligence cases are urged to contact medical negligence lawyers to learn all legal options.
 

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