Swedish hospitals fail to report patient injuries

County authorities systematically disregard the legal requirement to report patient injuries to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), according to a review carried out by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper. Only around 1 percent of cases are reported.

Minister for Health and Social Affairs Göran Hägglund called the current legislation “a fiasco.”

“People are afraid of the consequences if they report themselves,” he told DN.

Hägglund wants to amend the current legislation to improve patient safety and encourage health care workers to report mistakes and other incidents that lead to patient injury or death.

Inspired by the airline industry, he wants to “ encourage more to report risks and mistakes within the health care sector.”

“We want to encourage…more to file reports rather than to keep it quiet.”

Hägglund doesn’t want to “hunt for scapegoats”, but rather “identify risky situations.” At the same time, however, those who make mistakes should be held accountable.

According to estimates from Socialstyrelsen, around 3,000 patients die each year due to medical malpractice or poor hygiene. Around 105,000 are injured.

Only 1,618 of these incidents – or about 1 percent of cases – were reported in accordance with the “lex Maria law”, which is the informal name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

Socialstyrelsen representative Carina Forsberg admits that the authority is only aware of “the tip of the iceberg.”

“It is an impossible task to know how many ‘non-reports’ there are. But there isn’t any question that the 3,000 cases of death should be reported immediately,” she told DN.

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