Giving the Ombudsman oversight over hospitals will give us a chance to measure our problem, investigate it, and to start saving lives, time and money. The first step to solving a problem is for us to admit we have one.
A CHANCE FOR MEASURABLE RESULTS
A CHANCE FOR MEASURABLE RESULTS
Ontario is the only province with self-policing hospitals - and self-policing doesn't work.
Ontario is missing several layers of oversight available in other provinces. The Ombudsman of every other province in Canada has jurisdiction over hospitals, and some provinces also have patient safety offices within Regional Health Authorities which can launch investigations based on patient complaints.
Why is Ontario less accountable to taxpayers?
We know that the previous efforts to give the Ombudsman power to investigate hospitals in this province were defeated by government, after lobbying by medical industry groups. So the medical lobby may be stronger here.
In Ontario, Local Health Integration Networks do not have the power to investigate hospitals as hospitals are considered autonomous. Notice the absence of the word Authority in their name, compared to Regional Health Authorities in other provinces.
Are we having more injuries and deaths because of this? It's a good question that's hard to answer because we're not obliged to collect the data and because most injuries and deaths from medical error go unreported.
But what we do know is this: When it comes to initiatives to hold our medical system accountable for medical error and poor care, Ontario is behind the national average. We also know that the current culture is costing us.
Medical errors are costing lives.
How many? Common estimates are that over 24,000 Canadians die on average each year because of medical error and that thousands more are injured as a result. Unreported injuries and deaths may be many times greater than reported, because of inadequate mechanisms to complain. The original illness or complicating symptom is reported as the cause of death, instead of naming the poor care as the real culprit.
How many people aren't counted? I know from personal experience that it is very hard to be included in these statistics, even if you tell the hospital, get a lawyer, complain to your political representatives or write a blog about it.
Sometimes there are patterns to the injuries and death - more women who are affected, for example, or more non-English speakers, or other. The only way for us to find out what is happening is for us to have more data, and we must collect it before we can get the answers and devise the solutions. Another way for us to start counting deaths and injuries is to ask the public to call and write to the Ombudsman's office with their concerns and to have those complaints logged and analyzed.
Every patient matters, so let's starting counting them. Ombudsman oversight gives us the power to do just that.
Medical errors are costing time.
How much? It's hard to estimate, but if you think about it on a smaller scale and then multiply it by the numbers affected, it is easier to see. If one patient's surgery is delayed, they lose that time. If they deteriorate because of inflammation, spreading disease, or atrophy from lack of activity, their recovery time will be even slower - sometimes far longer than the length of the illness itself. If that patient has to go back to ER a number of times because their condition wasn't dealt with properly the first time, that costs the hospital, doctors and nurses time. And it costs time to people who are waiting behind that patient in line. And to the families of all these people, because they don't have the help of this person, so they have to pick up more responsibility. And so on, the time loss spreads through the whole community. And as we all know, time is money.
Medical errors are costing the economy.
We lose in productivity, in lost tax revenue when people are disabled, in wasted money spent on more follow-up visits, more tests, more drugs, and more complications arising from all the extra steps. We want to save money, but we still don't seem to understand that excellence is cheaper than poor care.
We need Ombudsman oversight so we can measure, investigate, and report on the systemic and preventable errors which are wasting our precious human and medical resources. And we need binding recommendations.