Cases on medical negligence on the rise, Health Ministry’s data shows

Safety failure will also lead to loss of trust in health systems and in governments, says minister


THE number of errors and accidents at both government and private hospitals has increased in recent years despite efforts by the administrators of these healthcare centres to improve treatment safety.

Health Ministry’s official figures showed that between 2016 and 2018, the number of incidents involving wrong surgery, unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs), transfusion and medication errors and patient falls have nearly doubled in both public and private hospitals.

Over the three-year period, the number of wrong surgeries has increased from six cases to 11, while URFOs went up from 27 cases to 32 cases. Transfusion errors rose from 40 cases to 47 cases, while medication errors jumped from 3,104 cases to 3,741 cases.

Patient falls recorded the highest increase, with those involving adult patients rose from 2,374 cases to 3,547 cases and those involving children increased from 441 cases to 696 cases.

“There are many other reasons, but these are the top six causes which contribute to patient harm. It is important that we acknowledge this as a serious concern in Malaysia,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (picture) told reporters after launching the first World Patient Safety Day and Patient Safety Seminar in Putrajaya yesterday.

In his speech earlier, Dr Dzulkefly said over 134 million cases of unsafe care occur annually in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries — out of which 83% are considered preventable.

He attributed the incidents to ineffective communication, lack of teamwork, heavy workload, staff fatigue, failure to follow procedures and use of shortcuts.

The minister said approximately 15% of hospital expenditure and activity in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries was linked to safety failures. In the US, about US$28 billion (RM117.04 billion) was saved between 2010 and 2015 by systematically improving safety.

“Safety failure will also lead to loss of trust in health systems and in governments,” Dr Dzulkefly said. The government has taken numerous initiatives to improve patient safety over the last decade.

The Patient Safety Council of Malaysia was first established in 2003 to outline priority areas and benchmark patient safety performance in the country.

The ministry has also implemented various World Health Organisation programmes and made patient safety a mandatory course for all house officers in 2017.

“We need to invest in effective risk reduction strategies, improving the healthcare environment, providing safer equipment, having adequate numbers of staff and especially, to improve our safety culture.

“Patients also need to voice out their safety concerns, while healthcare staff must be willing to listen to patients’ comments or suggestions, and take action accordingly,” Dr Dzulkefly said.

The Kuala Lumpur Tower was lit up with orange lighting last night as a global symbol of solidarity in making patient safety a priority worldwide.

Also covered in orange lighting in their respective time zones were the Three Pyramid of Giza in Cairo and the fountain Jet d’Eau in Geneva, Switzerland.