Your chances of dying in hospital, or suffering some injury while there, stand at around 16 per cent. Half this risk is due to doctor or hospital error which means that 8 per cent of hospital patients are accidentally killed or injured by the staff.
These frightening statistics are the result of the world’s first survey into hospital safety, which was commissioned by the Australian Department of Health.
Hospital is the third major killer in Australia, according to the findings. Up to 14,000 patients died in an Australian hospital in 1992, the survey found, as a result of a mistake, and a further 30,000 suffered a permanent injury.
In all, about 230,000 people or 8 per cent of all admissions that year suffered some kind of injury caused by a mistake. Their injuries lasted less than a month in half the cases and less than 12 months in another 30 per cent of cases.
It’s been estimated that the injuries cost the Australian health system an additional Aus$650m.
Half the errors occurred during surgery, another 13 per cent from errors in diagnosis and 15 per cent as the result of inadequate training, supervision or communication, including such things as misplaced test results. Badly labelled and prescribed drugs were also to blame, although anesthetics, thought to be a major culprit, in fact accounted for only 2 per cent of injuries.
The study found that the group aged over 60 were at greatest risk.
Conducted jointly by the Adelaide and Newcastle universities in Australia, the study examined admissions at 28 South Australian and New South Wales hospitals.
The Australian medical establishment, with one eye on likely litigation suits, were quick to condemn the findings, describing them as “alarmist” and unfair, since they included minor injuries.