Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Statistics of reported cases in the US from 1995 to Sept 2009. Note what's at the top of the list. (From Joint Commission website.)

Just after praising Singapore's healthcare system in my last blog, I read today that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has received reports of 401 cases of hospital errors over the past seven years. In 2002, the MOH made it mandatory for hospitals to report such errors. This works out to one case a week. Among the cases was a patient who had the wrong knee cap replaced. Luckily it wasn't the wrong leg amputated!

Fortunately, most of the cases involved swabs left in the patient after surgery or wrong drugs administered to patients. I remember the last time I was in Singapore I read that two women patients were given chemotherapy drugs over hours instead of days. Luckily for the hospital, the women survived.

Singapore is among several countries in the world with a sentinel system that keeps a record of such cases of error with the aim of learning from them. Hospitals in Singapore are given a week to report the cases and two months to implement steps to ensure that similar errors do not recur, or their license will be revoked. Definitely a step in the right direction.

The overall percentage of hospital errors may be insignificant. But to the patients at the receiving end, it is not a matter to shrug off easily. They may have to endure unnecessary pain, and in some cases, the loss of a limb, or worse, their life. And what about the extra expenses incurred on medical rehabilitation?
That's me just before my liver operation on June 26, 2008.
I am reminded of my emergency liver operation last year. I had it done in Singapore. I was told it was related to the surgery I had 20 years ago to remove my gall bladder. Apparently that surgery could have been done better. It did enter my mind that I could have a legal case against that first doctor.

I wonder how many hospital mishaps in Malaysia go unreported. Most people wouldn't know if their doctors had left anything in them after a surgical procedure unless they experienced some pain or discomfort.

I am sure many of us have tales to tell about our own hospital experience. I look at the young doctors in our teaching hospitals and wonder how many of them are really cut out for the profession.
Have entry requirements into medical school been lowered to meet the pressing demand for more doctors in our country? Are our doctors so overworked that when they enter the operation room, they may not be fully alert or fully focused on the surgery they have to perform?

It's a scary thought. All we can do is to say our prayers that God will guide the hands of the doctor holding the knife.


foodbin said...

i have a friend who went for a colonscopy in a private hospital in Seremban and ended with one of her intestine pierced-underwent surgery to stitch it back in another hospital-imagine the pain and agony she has to suffer!

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