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Medical Negligence in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI Often Goes Undetected

Victor Lewin - Monday, December 05, 2011

Patients who are harmed by doctors or hospital staff usually are unaware that the harm resulted from negligence. Medical negligence is often far from their mind in such a situation. Recent data suggests that it should not be.

Recent data contained in a series of two reports from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has shed light on how Canada compares to other nations with respect to the various aspects concerning health care. The results are troubling but not surprising.

While in some aspects Canada does very well and ranks quite highly in terms of health care, the authors of the reports observed and noted Canada's health care system shows alarmingly high rates of hospital errors. It the reports found this errors to be very concerning.

Although Canada is ranked quite high in breast cancer survival rates and also has a good record of preventable hospital stays when it comes to complications arising from asthma as well diabetes episodes, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which comprises 34 member nations, found that residents of Canada tend to be subjected to higher rates of hospital mistakes, unfavourable events, and sadly birth traumas which occur during delivery.

Another disturbing trend in Canada has to do with surgical procedures and foreign objects remaining in individuals who have had surgery. While any object left in a person after surgery is a significant occurrence, the higher rates may reflect on Canada's diligent process in collecting data related to hospital errors, the OECD report notes.

The OECD report also found in a survey of 11 countries, that Canada had the longest wait times for patients attempting to see medical specialists or to undergo elective surgeries.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has reviewed the OECD data and has found that these multi-country comparisons are quite useful in assisting in the identification of the various shortcomings in Canada's health-care system.

In 2009, Canada spent just over 11% of its GDP on health, more than the average of all countries included in the OECD report. Per person spending was also more than the OECD average.

Hopefully these studies will provide an incentive for further studies aimed at identifying why Canada's hospital's show these troubling high rates of error. Why does Canada, a relatively prosperous nation with a purported first class health care system, continue to show such high hospital error rates? This important question needs to be addressed so that doctors and hospitals can take the necessary steps to keep their patients safe.

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