Surgical instruments left in 47 patients over three-year period

Date: Dec 27, 2017


Dozens of patients who received operations in NSW between 2014 and 2016 had to undergo further treatment because surgical instruments were left inside them, according to a new study.

The Auditor General’s 2017 Report on Health revealed that 47 such incidents occurred over the three-year period, with 20 cases in 2015 alone.

This was just the tip of the iceberg. Four people died after medical practitioners administered the wrong medication between 2014 and 2016, while operating on the wrong body part or patient led to three deaths.

Another three people lost their lives or were left seriously disabled after suffering intravascular embolisms. These occur when air enters your veins and are usually the result of human error during patient injections or IV insertions.

The report describes the above incidents as ‘sentinel events’, which means they lead to death or serious harm.

Medical negligence claims after sentinel events

Many of the health outcomes listed in the report could lead to successful medical negligence claims.

Patients deserve a certain standard of care from medical practitioners when they undergo surgery, and sentinel events typically involve significant professional failings.

“Even a small number of isolated sentinel events have the potential to seriously undermine public confidence in the healthcare system,” Acting Auditor-General Ian Goodwin said.

There are eight nationally agreed sentinel events. Two of these – infants being discharged to the wrong family and patients receiving the wrong blood type during a transfusion – have not happened for at least three years.

Fewer sentinel events in 2016

Sentinel events are on the decline in NSW, dropping from 53 to 50 between 2014 and 2015, before falling further last year to 34. On average, one incident occurred for every 85,893 patients admitted to a state hospital during 2015-16.

The number of patients with surgical instruments left inside them more than halved from 2015 to 2016. Hospitals also appear to have improved mental health protocols, with inpatient suicides falling from 15 to nine over the same period.

However, following two years in which there were no reported cases of operations on the wrong patient or body part, three incidents occurred in 2016. There was also a 25 per cent increase in the number of people who died after receiving the wrong medication.

If you would like to discuss a medical negligence claim, please contact an experienced legal professional at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

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