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$80m paid out on medical accidents in 2008

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Author Topic: $80m paid out on medical accidents in 2008  (Read 47 times)
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« on: February 03, 2009, 09:07:40 am »

Compensation to patients who suffered surgical errors, missed diagnoses and other "treatment injuries" may have topped $80 million last year.

Figures given to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show the biggest individual payout of more than $550,000 went to a patient blinded as a result of a treatment injury.

Between January and September, the ACC paid more than $63 million in new and continuing claims an average of $7 million a month. Figures were unavailable for the last three months of 2008. The cost of treatment injuries and medical misadventure has risen more than 250 per cent since 2001, from $26 million for 2643 claims to $69 million for 7235 claims in 2007.

ACC's director of clinical services, Kevin Morris, said the increasing number of claims did not mean hospital staff, dentists, pharmacists and other health workers were making more mistakes rather, it reflected greater openness.

In July 2005, ACC replaced "medical misadventure" with the treatment injury category, meaning claimants no longer had to prove an error had been made. "In cases of medical error, there was a tendency for lawyers to get involved, which strung out the process considerably."

The average time to settle a claim had dropped from five months to 20 days. "As a result, there are more claims, but we see that as positive. It's possible that some events were not being disclosed previously but now health professionals are happy to co-operate."

Dr Morris said ACC data was fed back to health providers and professional groups, who now had a clearer picture of where errors occurred and could better prevent them.

Wound infections were the most common injury, followed by allergic reactions, bruising, nerve damage, skin infections, damaged teeth, skin tears, pressure sores and incisional hernias blowouts in the abdominal wall which formed when surgical cuts failed to heal properly.

Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson agreed the "no fault" approach was fairer for patients. "It's not that health professionals wanted to stand in the way of patients getting compensation, but they would fight the claim because they didn't want a black mark beside their name."

However, he suspected health workers still hestitated to report incidents that could trigger disciplinary action.

Medical Association chairman Peter Foley denied there was any reluctance by doctors to help patients make claims.

"Doctors understand they have to be open and transparent. We're all human and mistakes will always happen, but the only time that the medical profession gets into trouble is when it is less than open."

Wellington lawyer and ACC specialist John Miller said the new system was fairer, but some inequities remained. 


Biggest individual payouts in 2008

- Blindness $552,435

- Osteomyelitis (bone infection) $483,359

- Adverse drug reaction $452,246

- Paralysis after spinal cord injury $295,485

- Ovarian cancer spread due to delayed diagnosis $206,644

- Stroke $190,910

- Lymphoma spread (delayed diagnosis) $188,215

- Brain haemorrhage $182,026

- Blindness $166,219

Payouts include ongoing medical and rehabilitation costs, as well as compensation paid directly to victim.


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