Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia medical error registry reports 205 serious events over 2 years

Numbers from the province's Serious Reportable Events database, show that over the past two years, 126 Nova Scotians have died or been seriously disabled while under the care of the province’s medical system.

126 Nova Scotians have been killed or seriously disabled while under care of province’s medical system

The Serious Reportable Events database was established in 2013 after two serious laboratory mix ups, one of which led to an unnecessary mastectomy for a Nova Scotia woman. (Pascal Lauener/Reuters)

Over the past two years, 126 Nova Scotians have died or been seriously disabled while under the care of the province's medical system.

That's according to numbers released in the province's Serious Reportable Events database.

Nova Scotia has been tracking medical errors since January 2014.

In 2015 there were 128 total events — a 66 per cent jump from 77 incidents in 2014.

"Initially, it's not unexpected that we will see numbers grow as reporting increases," said Tony Kiritsis of the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

More than 85 per cent of the 205 total incidents fell into six categories: bedsores, suicide and suicide attempts, falls, objects left inside patients during surgery, diagnostic errors and unspecified "care management" events:

  • 61 patients experienced severe pressure ulcers (bedsores), including deep wounds that exposed fat, tendons and bone.
  • 58 people either killed themselves or were left seriously disabled as a result of suicide attempts while receiving in-patient or outpatient psychiatric care.
  • 21 patients died from falls.
  • 14 surgical patients had foreign objects left inside them.
  • 13 patients suffered death or disability due to a misdiagnosis.
  • 13 patients suffered death or disability due to unspecified "care management" problems.

"The goal is to have the safest possible system you can. Knowing about events is fundamental to that," said Catherine Gaulton, vice-president, quality and system performance for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Gaulton says every reportable event triggers a review by health administrators.

"We weren't seeing a trend of, you know, at a particular location or as a particular team," she said. "It really is one of those system problems where we need to work on a system response with our teams."

The director of Dalhousie's School of Nursing says the number of severe pressure ulcers showing up in the Serious Reportable Events database seems high.

Medical system improvements

At the same time, Kathleen MacMillan says it's a growing problem in the medical system worldwide.

"We have sicker patients than we did historically. We have a lot of frail elderly people," she said.

MacMillan says while not all pressure ulcers are preventable, it's important to keep focusing on improvement in the medical system.

"We all need to pay attention to this. It's a serious issue and a nursing issue," she said.

The province doesn't release details of the incidents due to privacy concerns.

Instead it groups them into 35 generalized categories, of which, only 15 categories have been reported so far.

The Liberal government created the Serious Reportable Events database in 2013 after two serious laboratory mix ups, one of which led to an unnecessary mastectomy for a Nova Scotia woman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now