A recent news story, reports that New York hospitals are hiding thousands of medical mistakes in a database that is hidden from the public! As a New York medical malpractice attorney it chilling, but not all that surprising, that serious errors are being hidden and those affected denied justice.
According to the New York State Health Department, state hospitals have confidentially reported more than 40,000 so-called “adverse events” since 2007, which includes such serious errors as wrong-site or wrong patient surgeries, unexpected deaths and delays or omissions of treatment. But if a member of the public tries to search hospital profiles on the Department’s website, only a fraction of those reports will come up. This is because of a state law that allows for the New York Patient Occurrence Reporting and Tracking System (NYPORTS)–any reports under this program are kept secret from the public.
Example: C-section Gone Horribly Wrong
One of the “adverse events” reported under NYPORTS (but never to the public) was a C-section that went awry at a lower Manhattan hospital in 2007. Evidence of the incident only surfaced at all through an unrelated employment lawsuit. Shockingly it showed that doctors performed a C-section on a woman who wasn’t even pregnant. In testimony in the unrelated case, one of the doctors at the facility stated that she knew of the C-section. Despite this and a New York requirement that such surgical errors be reported within 24 hours, this event was not mentioned in any record available to the public.
A spokesman for the Department told reporters that the hospital, New York Downtown Hospital, was in “full compliance with all state reporting requirements.” The C-section incident was reported under NYPORTS but, as stated, that information is confidential and not available to the public.
Reporters have discovered that 14 other problems classified as “unexpected deaths” have been reported through this confidential system since 2007. None are found on a search of the Department’s website. Patient advocates have strongly criticized this confidential system, saying the public deserves, at a minimum, evidence that New York takes reports of harm seriously and is doing something to improve things. Patient advocates point out that in this system they have no way of finding out whether hospitals are even reporting confidentially what they should be reporting. Arthur Levin, the director of the non-profit Center for Medical Consumers, said, “If it’s all opaque, there’s no reason to do better. If it’s all transparent, there’s a darn good reason to do better.”
But the Health Department maintains its hands are tied by the law stating that this information is forbidden from being released to the public. The Department issued a statement, which says, “Under state law, hospitals are required to report adverse events to the state Health Department, which uses this information to identify and correct deficiencies that may affect patient safety. Due to confidentiality statutes in the law, this information is not disclosed publicly. The department is currently developing strategies to provide additional information to help inform and serve the interests of the health-care consumer in the state, while also ensuring continued compliance with confidentiality requirements.”
What do you think?
Is this law fair? It is useful for this information to be reported but not shared with the public?
See Our Related Blog Posts: