Gill Stannard

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Surgical failure rates in Australian Hospitals

One in five operations fail

The 20 per cent failure rate of surgery in Australian hospitals is costing billions of dollars, inflating the cost of private health care and putting patients' lives at risk, an insurance chief says.

Second operations are required one in five times to rectify problems caused by infections, medical errors and the poor quality of prosthetic hips and knees, a national newspaper reports. Figures from Australia's largest private health insurer, Medibank Private, reveal the rate of hospitalacquired infection is more than double previous estimates.

"It's very expensive for patients, it's inconvenient and sometimes very dangerous," said Medibank managing director George Savvides.

He said Australia should aim to halve the failure rate, which is the same in private and public hospitals as "it's often the same staff doing the procedures in the public and private systems".

Reducing the ballooning cost of medical mistakes could have a significant effect on the cost of health insurance, he said.

"In the private hospital sector, about $300 million a year would be wasted. It would be much more across the entire health sector," Mr Savvides said.

"If we could wave a wand and reduce 15 per cent of health expenditure costs, we would be able to freeze the cost of premiums for two years and the rise in Medicare costs would halt."

Canberra Hospital director of infectious diseases Peter Collignon said doctors weren't doing enough to reduce the rate of complications caused by potentially lethal infections.

There should be thorough investigations when patients die of infections in hospital, he said.

AAP November 11, 2006

Comment: Unfortunately this statement reduces people to numbers. A little more thought on the inpact on the lives of the individuals affected by these needless errors and a little less on the finances would be useful. Regardless, the current complication rate is unacceptable.

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