About 80 times each week, patients undergoing surgery experience mistakes that safety advocates say never should happen. They’re called “Never Events,” but these events are happening far too often and costing patients significant pain and suffering. The types of surgery errors being made include:
· surgical instruments such as sponges or needles are unintentionally left behind in the patient;
· the wrong procedure is performed;
· the wrong surgical site is operated upon;
· surgical equipment is not properly sterilized;
· surgery is done on the wrong patient.
Shockingly, there is no federal reporting requirement when hospitals leave needles, sponges, or other items in patients during surgery. However, research studies and government data suggest it happens between 4,500 and 6,000 times a year. That’s almost twice government estimates of about 3000 cases, and sponges account for more than two-thirds of these incidents.
Unfortunately for patients, fewer than 15% of U.S. hospitals use sponges equipped with electronic tracking devices, according to a USA TODAY survey of the companies that make those products. And the consequences of leaving a sponge or other device in a surgery patient are serious.
Hospitalizations resulting from a lost sponge or instrument average more than $60,000, according to data compiled by Medicare, which denies payment for costs stemming from such errors. Related malpractice suits cost hospitals, on average, between $100,000 and $200,000 per case, several research studies show.
A decade ago, a landmark report on health care quality ranked lost sponges and instruments in the most serious category of medical errors. Issued by the National Quality Forum, a congressionally funded non-profit, the report urged immediate steps to drive down incidence rates, including mandatory reporting to track cases.
Today, there is still no national reporting mandate, and the available data suggest little or no progress in curbing incidence rates, particularly for sponges.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a surgical error, call the experienced attorneys at The Collins Law Firm for help with your case.