California requires hospitals to report serious medical errors. In doing so, the hospitals are accountable for their actions, in addition to providing prospective patients with crucial information about hospital quality.
So many hospitals have reported that they are error-free, however, that state investigators are demanding more information.
Medical Errors That Must Be Reported
To be reportable, a medical error must be severe enough to be considered an “adverse event.” An adverse event is an occurrence that puts the patient in danger of serious bodily harm or causes the patient’s death.
California law defines 28 adverse events that must be reported. They include:
- Performing surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient
- Performing the wrong type of surgery
- Medication errors
- Leaving a foreign object inside the patient
- Contamination or malfunction of a drug or device
- Sending a newborn home with the wrong person
- Patient falls
- Certain crimes that occur at the hospital, including kidnapping and sexual assault
These errors are serious and preventable. Hospitals that report zero errors may be expertly run – or they may be underreporting. The high number of hospitals that have not reported any errors has caused concern for California legislators and the California Department of Public Health.
Several California Hospitals Under Review
Hospitals that experience adverse medical events can face steep fines, from $50,000 to $100,000, although not all medical errors lead to fines. The fines, in addition to the potential public backlash, could lead some hospitals to underreport adverse events.
This leaves patients at a disadvantage, and state officials are seeking to ensure that hospitals are being candid.
Of the 418 hospitals that must report medical errors, 87 of them – more than 20 percent – have reported no medical errors in the past three years. California officials have asked the “error-free” hospitals to correct or verify their claims.
It is possible that some of the hospitals were in fact error-free for the past three years. On the other hand, some hospitals may have accidentally underreported, while others may have purposely submitted inaccurate numbers.
The Purpose of Mandatory Reporting
A major reason for reporting medical errors is to expose the rate at which hospitals are allowing medical negligence to occur. Mandatory reporting of adverse hospital events enables California patients to become smarter consumers. Armed with this vital information, they can choose the hospital they feel will best protect their safety.
For this information to be useful, however, all hospitals must accurately report their errors. Increasing the visibility of hospital safety can only succeed if all hospitals follow the law.
Contact an Attorney
If a medical error caused your serious injury or the death of your loved one, a California personal injury attorney can advise you of your rights. You may be able to pursue compensation for damages including pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.