MUHC withholds info on medical errors
MONTREAL – An access-to-information
request made by The Gazette newspaper for a list of medical errors
within McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) during the last two years
has been rejected.
Under Quebec law, hospitals are required to identify and track these
errors, which include preventable infections, drug dosing mistakes and
surgical accidents. They are also required to make them public in the
interest of patient safety.
Hospital records of risk management committees are confidential, MUHC
representative Robert Cox said. “Consequently, I have no other
alternative but to deny your request,” Cox wrote.
By contrast, officials at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de
Montréal said they were prepared to release such data, and without the
need of an access to-information request.
The MUHC information clampdown has surprised health advocates.
“There’s no legal or legitimate reason not to publish (statistical) data
on the matter – unless you have something to hide,” said Paul Brunet,
head of the patients’ rights group, the Conseil pour la protection des
malades. “I am surprised. I can’t believe it is their corporate
“I challenge their management to publish the data, like all good public
servants, for the sake of everyone, including their own.”
A coroner’s report into the death of Ivan Todorov, 83, after three
months of care at Royal Victoria Hospital, highlighted malnutrition,
infection, metabolic complications and gradual multi-organ failure.
These were never reported to his family.
Moreover, eight years after the Quebec government adopted Bill 113,
requiring hospitals to report to patients “any incident or accident as
soon as possible after becoming aware of it,” the provincial Health
Department has yet to set up its registry of adverse events.
The provincial registry is expected to start analyzing adverse events
data as of next year. In the meantime, each hospital is expected to keep
its own records of such incidents and make the data public in their
annual reports. This process is independent of complaints lodged by
patients with hospital ombudsmen.
No hospital contacted by The Gazette includes adverse events in its
annual reports. It’s not clear how Quebec enforces Bill 113. No fines
are levied if a hospital fails to record an incident.
According to a study led by University of Toronto health researcher Ross
Baker, approximately 24,000 Canadians die each year from preventable
The Canadian Adverse Event study was based on data from hospital
patients in 2000. Are patients safer now? “We can’t answer that question
because we don’t have the data that give us a sense of comparing,” Baker
said yesterday. “Most of us feel we haven’t made enough progress to
repeat the studies that were so alarming years ago.”
Not much has changed in terms of patient safety in the past 10 years, he
said, largely because of inconsistencies in measuring and reporting
medical errors, and a climate of fear.
“If you talk to doctors and nurses, they say, ‘I know I should do this,
but what will happen if I make these reports?’ ” Baker said.
Posted December 16, 2010