State report shows slight uptick in reportable hospital errors

Minnesota hospitals and surgical centers reported 336 medical errors last year that risked patient safety. But medical mistakes that resulted in patient death declined.

The Minnesota Department of Health's annual adverse health events report found four deaths caused by a preventable error — one due to a medication mistake and three from falls. The events were tracked from Oct. 7, 2015, to Oct. 6, 2016.

While the total number of events is up from 316 the previous year, the four deaths are a decrease from 16 the previous tracking year. Rachel Jokela, director of the adverse health events program, said the drop is a step in the right direction for patient hospital safety.

"We are sorry when any of those events happen; that's four patient families that lost a loved one," she noted. "It's kind of hard to celebrate that number until it's zero."

The report also found that for the first time since 2011, suicides didn't contribute to the annual tally.

State law requires hospitals and ambulatory care centers to track 29 preventable errors. They include wrong-site surgeries, foreign objects left in patients, medication mistakes, and falls.

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Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, and falls were the most commonly reported. They accounted for 60 percent of events.

Serious patient injuries resulted from 31 percent, or 106 events, while 1 percent caused death.

Jokela said there were 2.78 million procedures and surgeries in Minnesota last year, making these events rare. But with the employment of best practices and vigilances the events can be lowered.

The report's tracking period include Allina Health's two nurses strikes last year.The first in June, the second in the fall. But Jokela said the strikes didn't cause an uptick in events at the five facilities impacted. In fact, "a couple of them reported less," she added.