A doctor prepares for a surgical procedure at a hospital in Washington on June 28, 2016. More than 550 objects have been unintentionally left in Canadian surgery patients between 2016 and 2018, and the problem appears to be getting worse. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Molly Riley

VIDEO: Surgical objects left in patients on the rise in Canada, data shows

553 foreign items — such as sponges and medical instruments — were left behind over a two-year period

More than 550 objects have been unintentionally left in Canadian medical and surgery patients between 2016 and 2018, and the problem appears to be getting worse.

A new report released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says 553 foreign items — such as sponges and medical instruments — were left behind over that two-year period.

That’s a 14-per-cent increase between the most recent data collected 2017-2018 and statistics collected five years earlier.

It’s also more than two times the average rate of 12 reporting countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, which had the next highest rates.

The information was examined as part of a broad look at how Canada’s health-care system compares to other member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s director of emerging issues, said the data only notes how often the mistakes occurred, but not how or why.

“Often they are smaller things and they may be things like clips or sponges,” said Johnson, suggesting the reasons are likely complex and multifaceted.

“Some surgeries are long and complicated and if they have to change people during that surgery because some surgeries last a long time, it may be that things get missed because of that. It may be that they don’t have protocols in place — surgical checklists are one of the things that are utilized to try and prevent a number of things happening….

“What we know is patient safety is complicated. People don’t go to work to make mistakes but these things happen.”

Johnson said several peer countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, do not report on cases where foreign objects are left behind, making comparisons difficult.

And the Canadian statistic is based on data provided by hospitals in only nine provinces.

Still, Johnson said there’s clearly work to be done to improve patient safety, noting the average rate of forgotten items was 9.8 incidents per 100,000 surgeries.

That number also varied widely between regions — from a low of 5.7 per 100,000 surgeries in British Columbia to about 15 per 100,000 surgeries in Quebec, said Johnson.

She suggested that variation may have more to do with how thorough one province’s counting and recording system might be versus another, rather than apparent deficiencies in care.

The information was examined as part of a broad look at how Canada’s health-care system compares to other countries.

ALSO READ: Chilliwack woman, struck by train while trying to save man, has partial hand amputation

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quadra Island adds voice to provincial old growth protest

Demonstrators and phoning campaign put pressure on provincial government

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Campbell River RCMP describe violent incident as ‘disturbing event’

Skatepark incident described by RCMP as ‘violence for violence[’s] sake’

North Island area timber supply under review

Review will inform annual cut for the next ten years

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

‘Bad blood’ over pathology issue, says Island Health medical director

Regional hospital district board pushes for pathology service in Courtenay, Campbell River

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Most Read