Consumer Watchdog Calls On Gov. Brown to Audit Reports Of Thousands of Medical Errors At Hospitals

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SANTA MONICA, CA: Following a report that thousands of medical errors were reported by California’s hospitals in the last four years, Consumer Watchdog called on Governor Brown and state health regulators to audit hospitals for failures to report many instances of patient harm and for full public disclosure of these events.

“…the Department of Public Health (DPH) collected reports of just 6,282 adverse events, like surgery on the wrong body part or unexpected death, in the past four fiscal years. Given that an estimated 44,000 Californians die every year because of preventable medical error, this tiny number of reported adverse events is literally unbelievable. Some hospitals only reported a single adverse event in a year. DPH should recognize that it’s a statistical impossibility for any hospital to have such a pristine patient safety record,” Consumer Watchdog wrote Governor Brown.

These numbers were not previously available to the public but were the result of a nine-month-long groundbreaking NBC Bay Area investigation. Watch the NBC Bay Area investigative report here:

Read the letter here:

California hospitals are required to report adverse events, like surgery on the wrong body part, surgical items left in patients or unexpected deaths, to the Department of Public Health.

“The Department of Public Health also fails to provide meaningful disclosure of adverse events to the public, only publishing the total numbers in an annual report that does not even contain the names of hospitals where adverse events occur. It is impossible for Californians to gauge the safety of the hospital they choose with the negligible information DPH provides,” wrote Consumer Watchdog.

State law requires the Department of Public Health to make data on adverse events and the outcomes of investigations available to the public online as of January 1, 2015. Consumer Watchdog called on the Governor and state health regulators to ensure the law is implemented on time, that disclosures are searchable and include hospital, type and date of adverse event, outcomes and audit results.

“It shouldn’t take nine months and an investigative television report for Californians to find out when hospital errors harm people. Governor Brown and his health regulators must make information about medical mistakes available online to inform consumer decisions about the health care facilities they choose for their care,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog.

The letter was sent to Governor Jerry Brown, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Diane Dooley, and Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of the California Department of Public Health.

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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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