California hospitals fail to report making dangerous errors

Approximately 10,000 people die each year in California from medical treatment errors, and another 140,000 are seriously injured. A 2006 law required hospitals to report treatment errors, but many have failed to comply. From July 2007, when the penalties went into effect, through November of 2009 the state levied over $1 Million in fines for failure to report.

What is being done about the errors themselves? Not much.

Christina Jewett reports on the failure-to-report fines for California Watch, with listings by hospital for specific unreported events. Hospitals did comply with the law in reporting nearly 2,500 adverse events, but the total number that actually occurred is unknown.

The idea behind the self-reporting law is that shame and public scrutiny would induce hospitals to reduce the number of fatal and damaging treatment errors. So far, there is no evidence that this has had any such beneficial effect. In fact the current situation is possibly counter-productive, since the penalties for failure to report are relatively small compared to the loss of revenue that could ensue if the true scale of medical mismanagement were widely known.

Each year in the US more than 100,000 people are killed by preventable medical treatment errors, and another 100,000 die from preventable hospital infections, while another one to one-and-a-half million are significantly injured. Each year. Every year. Year after year, and it isn’t getting any better.

Universal health care is certainly a desireable goal. Universally quality health care is also a goal worth pursuing. More of the same slipshod care is only a recipe for more death.

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