10,000 killed by medical errors

Medical mistakes result in the deaths of about 10,000 Australian patients every year, a report has revealed.

The authors of the national study say the patients are among more than 250,000 Australians killed or injured each year as a result of what hospitals call “adverse events”.

Many of the deaths are hastened by only short periods and about half occur in the very sick and aged, according to the Australian Patient Safety Foundation.

Another study found that more than 80,000 hospital admissions each year were caused by medications, with almost 70 percent of them avoidable.

The studies published in the Australian Medical Association’s Journal of Quality in Clinical Practice has unveiled the extent of preventable incidents in hospitals and general practice.

Libby Roughead, of the University of South australia’s school of pharmac and medical sciences, found medication-related admissions were a major public health problem.

Her study, The nature and extent of drug-related hospitalisations in Australia, found drugs for cancer, rheumatic disorders, blood thinning, blood pressure and heart disease featured frequently in adverse drug reactions.

In a review of 14 Australian studies, Ms Roughead found up to 3.6 percent of the 3.4 million annual public hospital admissions were drug-related, with some causing disability.

The illnesses caused included stomach ulcers, heart failure asthma, angina, diabetes, haemorrhage and seizures.

Ms Roughead found 32 to 69 percent of complications were avoidable.

The Australian Patient Safety Foundation study revealed that of 6250 hospital incidentsreported last Marhc, 20 percent involved a medicaiton error.

A second study by the foundtion revealed the direct hospital costs of all preventable adverse events in Australia were almost $900 million a year.

But the report warmed the amound could blow to $1.2 billion when nursing homes, mental health car and specialists needed to counter the adverse incidents were added to the equation.

“This is an amount equal to that estimated for all other forms of injury comvined,” the authors said.

Among the problems, including some which led to deaths, were: unnecessary operations, such as mistaken diagnosis of gallstones, appendicitis and other conditions; poor resetting of fractures; wound infections; stomach bleeds as a result of inflammatory drugs; ad pressure injuries, skin tears and ulcers as a result of poor patient care.