|While mistakes by medical practitioners are understandable, 50 per cent of them are preventable. — Photo bvdkquangnam.vn
HCM CITY (VNS) — While mistakes by medical practitioners are understandable, 50 per cent of them are preventable, experts told a training workshop for the media organised by the health ministry in HCM City recently.
Professor Pham Manh Hung, chairman of the Viet Nam Medical Association, said that leaving devices inside a patient's body after surgery was one of the most common medical errors around the world.
"It also happens in Viet Nam."
To the list he added pulling out a wrong tooth and cutting out the wrong kidney.
They were a leading cause of fatalities, and in the US were only behind cancer and heart disease in claiming lives, he said.
Globally, 17 per cent of deaths due to errors were caused by wrong diagnosis, 10 per cent by wrong drugs, and 44 per cent by wrong treatment and others, he said.
In Viet Nam, there were many doctors with low professional knowledge, he said after earlier listing it as one of the reasons for medical errors.
In advanced countries, a doctor's training lasts nine years compared to just six in Viet Nam.
Hung also blamed hubris for errors, citing the example of many district-level hospitals whose doctors have demanded and got equipment for laparoscopy though they cannot even perform open surgeries competently, a pre-requisite for doing the so-called keyhole surgery.
Again, instead of several years of training, they only got six months' training, he said.
"As doctors, we should not disregard patients' lives," he said, calling for comprehensive reform of medical training.
The country had not standardised medical testing and that too leads to medical errors, he said.
Most hospital managers and doctors around the world including Viet Nam were loath to report medical errors, especially serious ones, he said.
"That is very dangerous. They should change their mindset. Reporting is very important to reduce errors and for better medical practice and patient safety.
"What does the Ministry of Health do to encourage doctors and hospital managers to report?"
"The first thing health staff should remember is to "do no harm", he said.
Bui Trong Khoa, deputy head of the Central Examination and Treatment Management Department, said 70 per cent of medical errors were caused by faulty systems and individual mistakes for 30 per cent.
"When an error occurs, we should not find out who caused it. It increases the risk of errors being concealed. We should analyse the system and not punishment an individual."
The ministry had instructed hospitals around the country to set up a risk management system to gather reports on medical errors and treatment failures, and it was mandatory for doctors to report errors, he said.
It also analysed the causes of errors and proposes solutions, he said.
Hospitals should buy liability insurance for their health staff to reduce the stress on doctors when errors occur, he added. — VNS