Considering birth, death, and all the little accidents in between, chances are we'll all spend some time in a hospital in our lifetimes. When we go there we expect a healthy clean environment, medical competence and professionalism. We expect to be treated with respect and to come out feeling whole and healed. We don't expect to have the wrong body part operated on, to have foreign objects left inside us, or any of the other avoidable mistakes being committed in hospitals today. Last year the Oregon Patient Safety Commission reported that preventable medical errors caused the deaths of at least 32 patients in Oregon.
Founded in 2003, the Oregon Patient Safety Commission has a simple vision, "Health care for all Oregonians will be safe." They were founded to combat the numerous medical mistakes that happen every year resulting in injury and death. While things have improved, they're still not at an acceptable level. Medical negligence leading to serious medical errors still happens on a regular basis and needs to be stopped.
In its lengthy report last year, the commission issued an ambitious goal, "Oregon will have the safest healthcare delivery system in the nation." They called it their North Star goal. This requires hospitals working harder to eliminate medical negligence that has plagued our healthcare system. As the report says, "Too many people are harmed when seeking care. By most quality and safety metrics, Oregon offers 'average' care at best." The report said that while things have improved, medical mistakes are still a huge problem in our healthcare system. We have a lot to improve upon. In comparing crucial areas of medical negligence over previous years, the report showed no improvement in one area: number of objects left in patients after surgery. In fact, a staggering 21 times in 2009 foreign objects were left in patients after surgery. This kind of medical negligence is unacceptable, and the Oregon Patient Safety Commission is hoping to eliminate it entirely.
Overall 136 incidents of adverse events were reported by hospitals in 2009. Though 22% resulted in minimal harm, that's still an unacceptable number. According to the report, serious injury or death were the results in about half the cases. 11.8% of reported adverse incidents were due to medication errors, and 6.6% were due to "wrong site surgeries". These are serious medical mistakes. Time is also of the essence. In fact 5.9% of adverse events were due to a delay in medical care.
Medical malpractice in Oregon is a serious issue, yet almost as shocking as its prevalence, is the fact that often little is done about it. Many criticize the American Medical Association of ineffective supervision of its licensed physicians and in failing, when appropriate, to issue appropriate discipline. The Oregon Patient Safety Commission is trying to improve communication and increase safety by asking doctors to have checklists, but what happens when costly medical mistakes are made? According to MedicalMalpractice.com, "Fewer than one-half of 1% of the nation's doctors face any serious state sanctions each year." That's only a small portion of the number of medical mistakes made each year. According to the site, "Few medical errors ever result in legal claims. Only one malpractice claim is made for every 7.6 hospital injuries, according to a Harvard study. Furthermore, plaintiffs drop 10 times more claims than they pursue, according to Physician Insurer Association of America data."
The Oregon Patient Safety Commission is working to reduce medical malpractice in Oregon, but in the meantime, patients have to stand up for their rights. If you've been the victim of medical negligence, don't be intimidated by hospital rhetoric. You're entitled to know about medical mistakes that have been made, and entitled to copies of all your medical records. Angel Law, P.C.'s Portland personal injury lawyer may be able to help. We can guide you through the process of filing a claim, should you choose to do so. In order to reduce avoidable medical mistakes and improve hospital care for everyone, hospitals and medical providers must be accountable for their preventable medical mistakes.