Minnesota hospital errors rose slightly over past 4 years

Published 8:52 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

ST. PAUL — An annual report says medical errors reported by Minnesota hospitals and surgical centers have been rising slightly for the past four years, and the number of resulting deaths rose in 2017.

The state health department’s 14th annual report on errors tracks those that risk patient harm. Of the 341 reported, 103 resulted in serious injuries and 12 led to deaths, compared with four deaths in 2016.

The most common errors remain pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, which accounted for 59 percent. Pressure ulcers declined slightly to 120 last year as the department and care centers worked to reduce them.

Email newsletter signup

But falls rose for the second straight year to 77 severe injuries, the second-highest total since 2008.

“Some of these falls with injuries are occurring almost when a person is getting ready to go home,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, chief patient safety officer for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “They’re feeling close to their independent selves.”

Five of the 12 deaths were associated with falls.

2016 had the highest number of surgeries or procedures done to the wrong body parts since 2004, with 36 cases. Many involved spinal procedures on the wrong side of the back or on the wrong vertebrae.

Hospitals employ time out procedures meant to stop such mistakes from occurring. Doctors are meant to ensure they have the right patients, procedures and body parts before making incisions. The report indicates that errors occurred in the absence of time outs and sometimes happened when time outs were performed incorrectly.

“It takes less than 60 seconds when done properly,” said Rachel Jokela, who directs the adverse events program for the state Health Department. “It should be done, in its entirety, for every patient, every procedure, every time.”

There were no reports of physical assaults on patients for the first time in five years, but there were three cases of sexual assault.