MDH report highlights increase in mistakes and deaths inside MN hospitals

Mistakes in hospitals on the rise

Mistakes in hospitals on the rise

From bedsores and falls to performing incorrect surgeries, new state findings highlight an increase in the number of adverse health events inside Minnesota Hospitals that sometimes lead to serious injuries and deaths.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s annual ‘Adverse Health Events in Minnesota,’ state officials say a big factor in the increases are the impacts from the pandemic.

“Obviously, we are disappointed and sad,” Rachel Jokela, MDH’s Adverse Health Events program director, said, adding: “We never want harm to come to any of our patients.”

As part of the program, MDH says hospitals and surgical centers are required to report adverse health events whenever they happen. These events are caused by errors in care.

In their release about the findings, MDH writes, “Prior to 2021, the overall number of events had been stable. However, for the second year in a row, MDH observed a rise in the number of incidents.”

And while the number of serious injuries caused by last year’s adverse health events decreased, the total number of events, 572, and deaths, 21, increased from 2021 to 2022 – MDH reports the 21 deaths is the highest number reported since 2006 when there were 24.

“That increase was primarily due to new challenges and increased care associated with the pandemic,” Jokela said. “We’re seeing increased patient complexity, we’re seeing longer length of stay, which leads to the opportunity for these events to happen.”

There was an improvement in the number of serious injuries from these mistakes, with a decrease of 28 for a total of 178 in 2022.

In a statement, the Minnesota Hospital Association – which represents hospitals and health systems and provides them resources and guidance – sent the following.

“Each and every adverse health event touches the lives of our patients and their families and highlights the ongoing complexities and challenges in our health care system. These hurdles have been exacerbated by the global pandemic and historic workforce shortages,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association. “Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems remain steadfast in their commitment to transparent reporting and are always focused on providing the safest, highest-quality care possible.”

Another statement shared after these findings were released came from the Minnesota Nurses Association, the state’s largest union representing nurses.

“As long as the corporatization of healthcare is allowed to run rampant in Minnesota, we will continue to see an increase in adverse events for Minnesota patients and nurses leaving the bedside in droves,” said Mary C. Turner, RN, President of Minnesota Nurses Association. “It’s time for our elected leaders to act, for the sake of all Minnesotans.”

Also over the phone, Turner spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and addressed the workforce shortage.

“Healthcare workers are leaving the bedside in droves to find something else to do. And so [that] is a very real concern,” Turner said.

The MNA also pointed to Minnesota lawmakers for not passing the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act as a reason for these concerns – Turner feels it would have improved care and prevented future hospital errors.

“We certainly don’t like these kinds of things going on, but when we feel that we’re pushed to the limit with how much we can take, how many people we can take care of at one time, this is very frustrating for nurses, and it causes a lot of moral injury,” Turner said.

The report highlights plans to improve things; moving forward, MDH plans to address workforce shortages with federal and state grants, as well as training programs and supporting mental health.