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VA reduces investigations of surgical errors and other mistakes


When a person in Newton needs medical care, one of the most important factors dictating how the treatment will proceed is having a correct diagnosis. This is especially true when it comes to treating veterans. Veterans' care is often left up to the Department of Veterans Affairs and administered at VA hospitals. It is bad enough when there are surgical errors and other mistakes, but if there is a diminished attempt to discover the causes, it can cause more damage not just to the victims, but also to others in the future. This can lead to a patient experiencing a worsened condition and suffering a serious injury.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office discovered that from the fiscal years of 2010 through 2014, the VA has reduced the number of investigations into medical mistakes by 18 percent. This was simultaneous to the number of veterans receiving treatment increasing by 14 percent and the number of mistakes rising by 7 percent in that same time period. Those who examined the numbers are not able to determine whether or not the lower number of investigations was due to a reduction in mistakes or if the mistakes were not severe enough to scrutinize.

Officials for the VA are not aware as to why there are fewer investigations. Officials for patient safety do not know the details of the investigations. According to the researchers, the federal standards for studying data are not following their mandate. Medical errors can cause injury to a patient if they are not taken care of when they should have or could have been. These are thought to be preventable. The new systems that hospitals and doctors are being pressured to put in place are meant to stop these errors from occurring.

Examples of damaging mistakes have included improperly sterilized equipment, a surgeon mistake with the wrong body part being operated on, patient falls or burns and wrong medications given to patients. The VA has essentially agreed that there needs to be improvements in how investigations are conducted. Since any medical mistake can cause serious injury, those who have been victimized by them -- no matter how trivial it might seem -- need to understand whether they can seek compensation. Speaking to a lawyer can help provide information for pursuing a case.

Source: Washington Post, "Medical errors are up at VA hospitals, but they're actually doing less to figure out why," Lisa Rein, Aug. 31, 2015

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