When will Australians be able to count on receiving health care that is safe?
The Oxford English dictionary defines safety as “freedom from danger and risks”, and there is little doubt that the question of safety is foremost in the minds of many Australians on admission to our hospitals. These concerns were heightened when, 10 years ago, the Quality in Australian Health Care Study (QAHCS) revealed that admission to hospital was associated with a 16% risk of an adverse event, including permanent disability or death.1 In the years that followed, public concerns about hospital safety were reinforced by a series of sensational scandals involving patient care at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, Western Australia (1999),2 the Canberra Hospital in the Australian Capital Territory (2000),3 and Campbelltown and Camden Hospitals in New South Wales (2002).4 Not surprisingly, all these incidents had common characteristics:3 compromised patient safety not detected by sentinel event reporting; suboptimal clinical governance; health care professionals, who, frustrated by inaction after internal reporting of adverse events, brought the matter to the attention of politicians; and, finally, all incidents provoked one or more independent inquiries.3
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.