Report: Minn. hospitals performed surgeries on wrong patient 53 times last year

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The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota's latest annual report on medical errors notes that hospitals are still making rare but severe mistakes, including performing the wrong surgeries 53 times last year.

In a 12-month period ending Oct. 6, 75 hospitals made 314 reportable errors, the newspaper said, according to the report set for release Thursday.

The overall number was about the same as the previous year's total, but related deaths jumped from five to 14, and events resulting in serious injury rose from 84 to 89, the Pioneer Press reports.

Those are frustrating statistics for leaders of Minnesota hospitals, who are now using a number of techniques specifically designed to avoid preventable errors. Among them is a "time out" – a review just prior to surgeries in which the surgical team verifies that they are about to preform the procedure on the right patient, the Star Tribune reports.

"We're still at a level that is too high," Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner, told the Star Tribune. "These are things that shouldn't be occurring."

Lawrence Massa, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association, told the Pioneer Press he was disappointed. "While we continue to make progress in some areas, we slipped in others."

While the overall number did not improve in the latest report, medical errors are still relatively rare considering the number of patients hospitals treat. Patients spent a combined 2.6 million days getting care in Minnesota hospitals, the report said, and adverse events occurred at a rate of about 26 per month, or 12.1 per 100,000 total patient days.

Nationwide, medical errors kill more than 250,000 people every year and injure millions, CNN reported in November. The mistakes add up to what could be considered the third leading cause of death in the country, Dr. Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told CNN.

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