Secret reports failing patients

One in nine patients in public and private hospitals in Australia suffers a complication that costs taxpayers more than $5 billion a year, according to a Grattan Institute report.

And one in every 100 patients contracts a hospital-acquired infection that costs the system almost $1 billion each year, the report says.

The information on these issues is collected annually, but not shared between hospitals or with the public, the report reveals.

If safety standards were lifted to match the best 10 per cent of hospitals, an extra 250,000 patients would go home complication-free each year and the health system would save about $1.5 billion every year, it says.

Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett says the figures show Australia’s hospital accreditation system has failed.

“It does not improve patient outcomes; doctors dismiss it as irrelevant or a waste of their time; it provides no incentives for excellent safety performance; and accreditation reports are kept secret,” he says.

“Practically every significant hospital safety failure in recent decades – from Bundaberg in Queensland to Camden and Campbelltown in NSW, Bacchus Marsh in Victoria and, most recently, a gas mix-up at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital in NSW – has happened in a hospital that had passed accreditation with flying colours.”

Mr Duckett says the current accreditation system gives hospitals ample warning that a visit by inspectors is imminent.

Hospitals are able to be spruced up for the once-a-year accreditation inspections, when they should be conducted without notice.

Information on complication rates should be shared so that hospitals with poor standards can learn from the best, Mr Duckett says, advocating that patients should have access to detailed accreditation reports on all hospitals so “they could hold their governments to account on the quality and safety of hospital care”.

“After each visit, the survey report should be released publicly. That way, patients and their families and GPs could make better-informed decisions about which hospitals to go to.”

Would you like to see hospital accreditation reports? Does it concern you that it is impossible to assess which are the best hospitals in your area?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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