Many Oregonians who have had an unpleasant experience with a physician or hospital wonder how frequently often such incidents occur. The answer is important to patients, health care givers and their insurers. In an effort to provide reliable data, the Oregon legislature created the Oregon Patient Safety Commission in 2003. The purpose of the commission is to reduce the number of serious medical errors in the state’s health care. Reviewing results over the last 16 years provides an occasionally hopeful and often disconcerting conclusion about the quality of medical care in the state.
For example, the commission reported that in 2018, 32 patients died from preventable health care errors in Oregon hospitals. Fifty-six of the state’s fifty-eight hospitals provided data for the study. In 2009, the hospital study reported 136 incidents. In 22% of the cases, the patient suffered minimal or non-detectable injury. Unhappily, half of the incidents resulted in serious injury or death. Despite the commission’s stated goal of reducing the number of times that surgeons left objects in patients, the commission found that objects had been left in patients on 21 separate occasions.
The commission is also attempting to reduce the number of medical errors in addition to merely counting the number of mistakes. Sixty-one percent of Oregon hospitals have developed systems for electronic medical record-keeping, which is a substantial increase above the national average of 51 percent. The commission’s goal of eliminating all incidents of left-behind medical hardware has stalled at an annual number of 40 such errors. Another significant finding of the commission is the improvement in communication from hospitals to patients about serious adverse events during surgery. The commission found that hospitals provided written notice in 43 out of 80 cases in which written notice was required.
As these numbers show, a significant number of Oregonians have suffered unnecessarily because of physician or hospital error. Anyone who has suffered from or lost a loved one to such an error may wish to seek damages from the responsible party. Contracting an experienced medical malpractice attorney is a very helpful first step. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a informative review of the patient’s medical records and can provide an estimate of the chances of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.