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Some Hospitals Not Reporting Errors As Laws Require

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Some hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not complying with state laws that require medical mistakes and serious complications be reported to state agencies, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. New Jersey's 2004 law requires hospitals to report serious incidents based on a list of 28 "never events."

However, five of the 80 hospitals in New Jersey have not reported a single preventable medical mistake or serious complication in the past year. Pennsylvania's 2002 law created the Patient Safety Authority and requires that hospitals report events resulting in death or in "unanticipated harm." Hospitals in Pennsylvania also are required to report "near misses," but some hospitals did not report any such events, according to the Inquirer.

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James Bagian, head of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety, said, "I don't know how many is enough, but zero is a bad number. Anybody that is supposed to report close calls and has zero reports is clueless," adding, "Management is asleep at the switch and just waiting until they kill someone."

The public can learn that a hospital is not reporting mistakes only in "rare instances" when the health department cites it for noncompliance, the Inquirer reports. Eliot Fishman, policy director for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said no hospitals have been cited. He said, "There is still some underreporting, and we are working directly with the hospitals to understand why." The New Jersey health department has received 1,600 reports, or about 20 per hospital, since the program began in 2005. Aline Holmes of the New Jersey Hospital Association said, "We are only a few years into this process," but "we have seen a steady increase in reporting" (Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/12).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.