Claims for treatment injuries top $14m

Last updated 14:06 10/01/2014

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Thousands of Kiwis are being injured during treatment for other ailments, costing the taxpayer millions each year.

Amputation, dental injuries, hepatitis and deafness were among the injuries the Accident Compensation Corporation accepted claims for last year.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show more than $14 million was paid out between January 1 and October 26 last for claims for injuries caused by treatment, including $5.38m in compensation.

A treatment injury is caused as a result of receiving care from a health professional.

Payouts included compensation, lost earnings, further treatment, rehabilitation and personal care costs.

The highest compensation payout in 2012 was $354,808. Last year, it was $141,695.

New Zealand Medical Association general practitioner council chairwoman Kate Baddock was not surprised that infections topped the "most claimed" list as there were several types of infection, from skin cancer to a post-operative infection in a wound.

Treatment injuries were well reported because there was a "no blame" culture, she said.

"Although anatomy is generally the same in individuals it can vary and sometimes quite significantly which means when you operate sometimes something you think is going to be in a certain place is not," Baddock said.

"Sometimes people cut through an important nerve or vessel or cause undue bleeding or cause things that may not have generally occurred."

In July 2005, ACC replaced "medical misadventure" with the treatment injury category, meaning claimants no longer had to prove an error had been made.

In 2013, 7969 claims were lodged for treatment injuries before October 26. Of those, 5089 were accepted. In 2012, 9367 claims were lodged, with 5892 claims accepted .

Nurse Executives of New Zealand chairwoman Denise Kivell said minimising the risk of harm and preventing treatment injuries was vital.

"The healthcare [industry] is a human industry. People don't do harm on purpose," she said.

Last year, the Healthy Quality and Safety Commission started a Surgical Site Infection Surveillance Programme to help reduce patient harm and improve reporting.

Kivell said this programme, along with the commission's hand hygiene campaign, would help reduce treatment injuries.

Patients also needed to be educated on how to look after themselves, such as watching for wound infection, she said.

WHAT GOES WRONG

Top 10 accepted claims throughout 2012 and from January 1 to October 26 2013 (excluding "other" category):

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1. Infection 2234

2. Adverse reaction 1240

3. Haematoma/Bruising 766

4. Nerve injury 721

5. Skin injury 403

6. Strain or sprain 382 7. Dental injury 335 8. Ulcer - pressure area/ decubitus 295

9. Perineal injury 233

10. Gastrointestinal injury 203

- © Fairfax NZ News

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