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.

Just Posted

Massive early-morning blaze destroys unoccupied Nanoose Bay home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire

Salmon fishing closures won’t save the whales, say critics

Federal government accused of going after salmon fishery as ‘low hanging fruit’

Air Canada will offer direct Nanaimo-to-Toronto flights again this year

Seasonal service will run from June until October

PHOTOS: Iconic aircraft at 19 Wing Comox entrance undergoes facelift

PHOTOS: Iconic aircraft at 19 Wing Comox entrance undergoes facelift

Dragon’s Den auditions return to Victoria in search of business pitches

Auditions take place on March 5 at Parkside Hotel and Spa

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Most Read