Patient falls figure in hospital's serious events increase

TIMARU HOSPITAL: Patient bed fall increases
TIMARU HOSPITAL: Patient bed fall increases

The South Canterbury District Health Board has had a significant increase in serious and sentinel events, recent statistics show.

There were 17 events at Timaru Hospital between 2011 and 2012, seven more than the previous year. A serious or sentinel event can, or has the potential to, result in serious lasting disability or death not related to the patient's illness or underlying condition.

Of the 17 events involving the SCDHB, 14 were the result of patients falling, two were related to suicide, or attempted suicide by mental health patients and one involved a patient who received too much medication.

SCDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said all events that occur are investigated and actions are put in place to help prevent similar incidents in the future. He said the SCDHB has taken a proactive approach to prevent falls, but it was still an area of concern.

"It is disappointing that despite this focus we have still had 14 serious injuries associated with falls. We have recently reviewed the actions taken and developed a further series of actions, which include introducing more regular nurse rounding of patients, ensuring that we offer assistance to patients awoken at night for toileting, improving signage and revamping mandatory training."

He said a growing number of patients cared for by the DHB were elderly so falls were an "ever-present risk".

However, he said the DHB was determined to do everything it could to minimise the number of falls.

"SCDHB is focused on its falls prevention activities and are working closely with the HQSC's national falls group, and other healthcare providers to reduce the number of falls."

He said although falls make up a large portion of SCDHB's serious and sentinel events, there are "many more " people admitted to hospital after falling in their homes.

The findings were revealed as part of the annual serious and sentinel events report released by the Health Quality & Safety Commission today.

Nationally, the data showed 360 events took place at public hospitals during the 2011-12 year, 91 of which resulted in patients dying. In the previous year, 370 events occurred, of which 86 died.

The commission's chair, Professor Alan Merry, said not all the events described in the report were preventable, but many involved errors that should not have happened.

''In some tragic cases errors resulted in serious injury or death. Each event has a name, a face and a family, and we should view these incidents through their eyes.''

The Timaru Herald