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Medical errors up locally, down statewide from previous year

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The number of medical errors reported at nearby hospitals last year rose slightly but fell across the state.

Area hospitals reported four serious medical errors last year: one at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin and three at Kindred Hospital Indianapolis South in Greenwood. Kindred’s errors involved three cases of pressure ulcers developed by patients after admission. The error at Johnson Memorial was for surgery performed on the wrong body part, according to a report released by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Operating room staff at Johnson Memorial go through a preoperative checklist before surgeries to ensure they operate on the correct body part, and the staff realized during the checklist that the wrong limb had been numbed. The procedure was immediately stopped, and the correct limb was numbed and operated on, spokesman Bill Oakes said.

“No harm was done to the patient in this case,” Oakes said.

Kindred Hospital could not be reached for comment on Monday.

At a glance

Here are the findings from the State Department of Health’s 2011 medical error report.

Number of errors in Johnson County in 2011: Four

Affected hospitals: Johnson Memorial Hospital had one error in which the wrong body part was operated on. Kindred Hospital Indianapolis South had three errors, where patients acquired pressure ulcers after admission

Number of local errors in 2010: Three

Number of errors reported statewide in 2011: 100

Number of errors reported statewide in 2010: 107

The number of local medical errors rose by one from 2010 to 2011. Across the state, 100 medical errors were reported at hospitals and surgery centers last year, down from 107 the year before. About 40 percent of those errors were surgical, and about 44 percent involved after-care, according to the report.

Community Hospital South and Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis had no errors listed in the report. Still, hospitals continuously look for ways to improve safety for patients and reduce the chances for mistakes, regardless of whether they’re listed in the state’s report.

“What the report does, it gives more transparency to medical systems for hospitals, and I think ultimately that improves the clinical service we provide to our patients,” St. Francis spokesman Joe Stuteville said.

No employees involved in the surgical mistake at Johnson Memorial were disciplined. But whenever a mistake is reported, the hospital puts together a team of doctors, nurses and administrators who review whether any policy changes or adjustments are needed to prevent similar errors, Oakes said.

Johnson Memorial and St. Francis also have teams looking for new ways raise standards and improve safety for patients, booth spokesmen said.

“You’re constantly looking at new problems that come up and asking yourself what can be done to improve that,” Oakes said.

Recently, a Johnson Memorial team investigated what could be done to reduce the number of patients who were readmitted within 30 days. After reviewing which patients returned and which did not, the hospital began updating the kinds of after-care instructions it gave patients, because patients who were educated about their post-hospital care were less likely to return, Oakes said.

At St. Francis, hospital staff regularly update standards such as infection control, which can cut down on conditions such as bedsores, Stuteville said.

“At its most basic level, we look at things we’re already doing: How do we make them better? How do we make our patients safe? You just constantly evaluate those things,” he said.

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