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New York State Dept. of Health Program Keeps Thousands of Medical Mistakes Secret


Posted on Sep 04, 2012

According to an NBC investigation, the NYS Health Department has not reported over 40,000 confidential medical errors to the public since 2007.

At the heart of the issue is NYPORTS (the New York Patient Occurrence Reporting and Tracking System). This program is a legally-constructed reporting mechanism for hospitals to inform officials of "adverse events," so that corrective measures may be implemented. In return, hospitals receive full confidentiality and any information related to the incidents are kept quiet. Included among the adverse events found since 2007, were wrong-site or wrong-patient surgeries, unexpected deaths, and delays or omissions of treatment.

The purpose of NYPORTS is to ensure those who hand information to regulators are not punished for their forthrightness. But patient safety advocates are livid. They find it abhorrent that the Health Department reveals only a small fraction of the thousands of adverse events in their records.

For example, New York Downtown Hospital in lower Manhattan has reported at least 14 "unexpected deaths" to NYPORTS since 2007, though the hospital's profile on the Health Department's website mentions none of them. Both the hospital and Department of Health claim they acted within the scope of the law.

Among the errors at Downtown was a C-section performed on a woman who was not pregnant. Yet despite sworn court testimony captured on video and a state requirement to report such mistakes within 24 hours, the state does not mention the procedure in any of its public records.

COMMENTARY

Wow. How do you perform a c-section on a patient who is not pregnant? That's incredible.

What's even more troubling is the Department of Health statement that they acted within the law. Although the intent of this program may have admirable underpinnings, the question for the public is how can we place our trust in hospitals and doctors if the Department of Health is fully aware of many instances of improper medical care that resulted in harm and fails to disclose that information to the public?

You would think it would behoove the New York State Department of Health to let consumers and patients know about problems that have occurred with various hospitals. What happened to transparency? What happened to making the patient aware so they can make an educated decision about which health care providers is right for them?

We can make an easy argument that consumers should have as much knowledge and information about a doctor and hospital before choosing to use their services. I am also not talking about the need for emergency services where an injured victim is taken to the closest emergency room to treat a life-threatening problem.

Instead, the general public should be made aware and should have access to the specific information that this NYPORTS program receives.

Why then does the Department of Health feel constrained to favor the hospitals and hospital staff at the expense of consumers or actively looking for the best medical care possible? This makes absolutely no sense.

A consumer should have access to the same information the Department of Health has. We're not talking about allegations where a disgruntled or unhappy patient makes a claim against a doctor or hospital and the claim must wait to be litigated in order to be fully proven.

Instead, we're looking at actual reported events by hospitals to the New York State Department of Health that is intentionally being withheld from the general public. It is outrageous to believe that our state legislators intended to shield the public from obtaining this important information.

HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS?

If you would like more information about how medical malpractice cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions,  I invite you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.

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