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MEDICINE

Swedish medical errors prove ever more costly

The cost of paying for harm done to patients in the Swedish healthcare system has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to a new report.

Swedish medical errors prove ever more costly

Every day, 28 Swedes receive economic compensation for injuries suffered due to medical errors, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports. And the costs of such claims is rising.

Drawing on statistics from the Swedish Patient Insurance Scheme (Landstingens Ömsesidiga Försäkringsbolag – Löf), DN found that the cost of compensation claims due to medical errors has risen from 231 million ($34.2 million) to 420 million kronor ($62.5 million) between 2000 and 2010.

Mixed up test results, injuries suffered during childbirth, infections following surgery, and incorrect drug dosages are just a few of the medical errors that reveal it can be harmful to a patient’s health to end up at a Swedish hospital.

The most common types of injuries for which patients receive economic compensation are orthopedic injures such as broken bones which don’t heal properly. The next most common claims are surgical errors.

“Nerves which are cut,” Swedish Patient Insurance Scheme claims manager Jan Adrups told the TT news agency.

Another common mistake for which patients are compensated are infections, he added.

However, Adrups added that much of the cost increase over the last ten years is likely due to inflation.

And rule changes which went into effect at the start of the year are expected to result in a further rise in complaints.

“We’re expected a certain increase by the end of the year,” Adrups told TT.

Many cases which currently go unreported may come to light under the new system, which requires that patients are always informed about their fight to file a complaint and seek compensation, Adrup explained.

Previously, doctors and nurses who committed medical errors received a warning from the Swedish Medical Responsibility Board (Hälso- och sjukvårdens ansvarsnämnd – HSAN).

The new system will attempt to explore why mistakes took place rather than issuing warnings and removing the risk of being shamed by one’s colleagues is expected to result in more mistakes coming to light.

However, managers at HSAN have criticised the rule changes, which now places the responsibility for investigating medical error claims with the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), for further removing medical professionals from personal responsibility for their errors.

But healthcare unions believe the changes will help improve patient safety, as do representatives from the health board.

“It’s clearly better when a patient doesn’t have to point to exactly who made a mistake. It’s enough to report the injury, than we can look into the cause,” health board oversight head Per-Anders Sunesson told DN.

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MEDICINE

Breastmilk drug could fight resistant bacteria

Swedish researchers may have found a solution to the growing resistance to antibiotics in the most unlikely of places — breastmilk.

Breastmilk drug could fight resistant bacteria
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A team led by Professor Anders Håkansson at Lund University’s Department of Translational Medicine have identified a protein in human breast milk that seems to make previously resistant bacteria once again vulnerable to antibiotics. 
 
Håkansson established that the wonder molecule Hamlet (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor Cells) could be used against cancer tumors and bacteria when he was still a graduate student twenty years ago.
 
“But what’s more interesting is that Hamlet makes some bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics,” he told Sweden’s TT newswire. “So far it seems that all bacteria can be made sensitive to antibiotics through Hamlet.” 
 
He hopes that the substance could signal the end to the constant race to develop new antibiotics as bacteria develop resistance to the old ones, saving lives. 
 
Håkansson's team is now testing the new drug on animals, and hopes to run the first trials on human patients within one or two years, beginning with patients suffering chronic resistant infections. 
 
“There are children with cystic fibrosis who often die of lung infections, and many of them have strains that are so resistant that we run out of alternative medicines. If we could use hamlet, it could make both doctors and patients very happy.” 
 
The new Department of Translational Medicine, launched on 1st January 2015, brings together Lund’s old Department of Laboratory Medicine with ten new research groups.  
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