CUPE News Release
NORTH BAY, ON - Research shows that 18 per cent of Canadian patients entering hospitals - 552,000 of them - experience harm.
In Canada, estimates run from 30,000 to 60,000 deaths annually due to medical errors, likely making medical errors the second leading cause of death in the country.
That's the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing, killing all the people on board every week who are dying from a medical error or hospital-acquired infection, said the authors of a book that looks at the systemic causes of preventable hospital deaths, at a North Bay media conference Thursday.
Medical errors include medication mistakes, misdiagnoses and unnecessary surgeries, as well as hospital-acquired infections.
William Charney, the editor of Epidemic of Medical Errors and Hospital-Acquired Infections and an occupational health specialist for 30 years (ten as director of environmental health at the Department of Public Health in San Francisco, and five at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal) said the research provided in the book challenges governments to act.
"Governments need to have the political will to tackle this epidemic and to change the culture of the medical establishment to one of openness and accountability to prevent needless deaths. A motive of cost-cutting in the hospital sector is fueling errors. This includes an obsession with cost-cutting through understaffing nurses and cleaners. But they have it backwards. Putting money upfront," said Charney, "will not only prevent errors and needless deaths, it will save health care dollars, because hospital stays will be shorter and liability costs will go down."
Like in the United States (U.S), medical errors - referred to as adverse events in the hospital system - are under-reported in Canada, said Charney.
Medical errors and adverse events are even higher in the community sector and in private independent clinics. The U.S. numbers are large with 788,000 attributed to medical error. U.S. patients at independent for-profit facilities are four times more likely to suffer adverse events than those in not-for-profit hospitals.
The book probes the systemic causes of preventable hospital deaths including unsafe patient volumes, inadequate staffing levels, shift work, healthcare working conditions, lack of accountability, legal issues that conflict with patient safety issues, and staff training.
The North Bay media conference is part of a 15-community tour that includes Toronto, Montreal, Thunder Bay and Windsor and culminates with a June 4 conference at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., in Toronto.
"The personal suffering this results in is staggering. But preventable medical errors are going to get worse if the Ontario government cuts hospital budgets and thousands more beds as planned. Heightened patient volumes, unsafe bed occupancy rates and reduced cleaning have resulted in an environment that puts patients at risk," says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) who has contributed a chapter to the book.
This fall, OCHU will push to have legislation requiring mandatory reporting of medical errors and hospital-acquired infections introduced at Queen's Park.
Epidemic of Medical Errors and Hospital-Acquired Infections is published by Taylor & Francis, a leading international academic publisher (http://www.taylorandfrancisgroup.com/).
To find out more about the June 4 conference go to: http://www.ochu.on.ca/conferences_conventions.html