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North County Health Services: Hospital reports few adverse health events in 2009

Two cases of bedsores - those were the only North Country Regional Hospital reportable adverse health events cited by the Minnesota Department of Health in 2009.

The report on NCRH follows the trend among hospitals statewide of decreased adverse health events last year.

"It's good news for us," said Joy Johnson, North Country Health Services vice president for marketing and business development. "We felt it was a very good report."

She said neither of the two cases of pressure ulcers (bedsores) resulted in serious harm to the patients.

Johnson said the Minnesota Department of Health has published the report for the last six years partly for hospital accountability, but also to help hospitals collaborate, analyze causes, develop protocols and share plans for improving patient care.

For example, she said, pressure ulcers are more likely to occur during surgery in which the patient is immobilized for hours at a time than as a result of patients being left in one position in bed for an extended period. The plans for preventing pressure ulcers during surgery include the "safe skin initiative," which assesses patients ahead of time to identify those with susceptible skin, and repositioning patients during the surgical procedures.

"It's a very important process that hospitals in Minnesota have been doing for six years," Johnson said. "Even great hospitals have adverse events. (We're) taking proactive measures to make sure those things don't happen."

Statewide, the total reportable adverse health events declined from 312 to 301. The Minnesota Department of Health report shows that in 2009:

- Patient falls decreased by 20 percent, with no patient deaths from falls.

- Four patients died as a result of adverse health events, the lowest number in any reporting year.

- Events resulting in serious harm or death decreased from 116 (37 percent in 2008) to 98 (33 percent.)

- Serious pressure ulcers cases remained constant at 122.

- Wrong-patient, wrong-procedure and wrong-site surgeries or invasive procedures increased slightly from 39 in 2008 to 44 in 2009.

- Retained foreign objects increased from 37 in 2008 to 38 in 2009.

"The goal of our adverse health events system is not simply to report numbers, but to develop strategies to prevent adverse events," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan said in a press release. "We believe the lessons learned and the steps taken in health care facilities across the state are helping to improve patient safety."

The legislation creating adverse health events reporting was signed into law in 2003 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.