Negligent hospitals will pay for 6 ‘never-ever events’

Hospital to pay if staff operates on wrong organ, leaves foreign object inside patient, gives wrong type blood, among other blunders.

December 27, 2010 04:40
2 minute read.
PATIENTS SPEND 70,000 hospital days a year in hospital corridors, IMA Chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman c

Hospital 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Starting on March 1, if a hospital blunders in any of six specific ways, the patient’s health fund will not pay for the patient’s hospitalization.

That means that the hospital – public or private – that was negligent will have to cover the cost of hospitalization without being compensated.

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This policy will prevail if hospital staffers operate on the wrong organ; leave a foreign object inside a patient’s body during surgery; cause a second- or third-degree burn; give the patient the wrong type blood; fail to repair a fractured hip within five days (if not for good medical reasons); or if a patient falls and suffers a fracture.

A draft of the new rules was issued on Sunday by Health Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu to the heads of the hospitals and health funds, informing them of the planned policy change and asking them for comments. The innovation is meant to encourage hospitals to be more careful.

The six events were referred to by Gamzu as “never-ever events,” meaning that there was no excuse for them to ever occur. The ministry also wants to map out where such events recur so that preventive action can be taken.

The occurrences of such events are indicators that can testify to a low level of patient safety and a poor “safety culture,” Gamzu wrote.

In such cases, the hospitals may not bill the health fund for hospitalization of the patient; if a bill is sent, the health fund has the right to appeal, the ministry said.

Gamzu, a former director of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, added that he recommends that if a “never-ever event” occurs, the hospital should apologize to the patient and family; report the incident to all relevant institutions; immediately launch an investigation and take steps to prevent a recurrence; and ensure that the patient is not charged anything for treatment.

Asked to comment, Prof. Yoel Donchin, head of the patient safety unit at Hadassah- Hebrew University Medical School and a leading expert in how to prevent errors, said that Gamzu’s rules are “an exact copy” of regulations issued two years ago by health insurance companies in the US.

But while the Health Ministry owns state hospitals, the ministry holds no function regarding insurance, he noted, making it unclear that it can enforce the penalties.

Moreover, issuing such instructions without adding hospital manpower and resources is “pulling the wool over the public’s eyes,” declared Donchin.

“To bring about a higher state of safety, one must set up a whole system – as we proposed to several previous health ministers,” he said. “The whole ministry lacks a single person in charge of encouraging safety in medical institutions.”

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