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Medical error

Alberta’s leadership urged for patient safety hospital

EDMONTON – Ross Baker, the co-author of a landmark report on patient safety, wants Alberta to lead Canada in creating a state-of-the-art hospital that better protects patients from medical errors.

A model hospital will help make patient safety a top priority in Canada’s health system, said Prof. Baker, of the University of Toronto, during a recent conference. “We need an example that we can point to that’s radically different and radically safer,” Baker told people attending the fourth annual Canadian Healthcare Safety Symposium.

Alberta is the best place to create this model because it has the resources, the interest from its medical community, and support for the issue from Health Minister Gary Mar, he said. “I think that Alberta could set the standard for Canada.”

Mar was an early supporter of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, now being established in Edmonton.

Baker said a model hospital would need extra funding to set a new standard for safety measures, such as better identification of patients, better handling of drugs, and special training for staff.

“Once you have that (model hospital), it changes the ball game,” he said. Hospitals operating under the old rules will be embarrassed into improving their safety standards.

Other provinces will rise to the challenge and create their own model hospitals.

Without that model, he predicts safety improvement will take a long time. Every hospital will do its small bit, but there won’t be the wholesale change that’s needed. Baker and Dr. Peter Norton of the University of Calgary released a study earlier this year that showed 7.5 per cent of patients in Canadian hospitals experience a setback because of medical error, and as many as 23,000 hospital deaths a year in Canada could have been prevented with better safety standards.

In the United States, more people die from mistakes made in hospitals than from car accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined, U.S. expert Dr. James Bagian told the conference. Bagian heads the U.S. Veterans Affairs National Centre for Patient Safety, which has made American veterans’ hospitals a model of patient safety in recent years.

Dr. John Wade, board chair of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, said he hopes to work closely with Bagian’s centre as the Canadian institute begins its work. The institute, created 10 months ago, is looking for permanent office space in Edmonton for its small staff.

Wade said the institute intends to push for patient safety through national accreditation procedures for hospitals and medical staff. Provinces need to change their legislation to encourage medical staff to report errors without fear of reprisals, said Wade. He said Saskatchewan has just implemented a model law, which requires anonymous reporting of all “adverse events,” as medical errors are called.