BEMIDJI-Sanford Bemidji Medical Center last year reported a spike in adverse health events, but hospital officials say the numbers don't necessarily illustrate the quality of treatment here.
The Minnesota Department of Health each year compiles records from every hospital in the state, and shares the findings in its Adverse Health Events report. From October 2014 to October 2015, Sanford Bemidji reported 10 such events-ranging from slips and falls to the death of a newborn during a low-risk pregnancy-after reporting three the year before.
The 2014-15 report came out Friday.
"When you look year to year, it could be that you had better reporting, and it could be that definitions have broadened," said Joy Johnson, Sanford Bemidji's chief operations officer.
She said the hospital has recently started reporting more and more events, at least internally, whether or not patients were harmed. And each year the state changes its definitions of events, loosening them to cover more incidents, even adding categories.
"The goal isn't to have fewer events," Johnson said. "It's to improve care."
Across the state, adverse events budged from 308 to 316. The health department, in a release, did note significant improvements in the number of falls, and in the number of surgical errors involving materials left in the patient.
Johnson said there's nothing about Sanford Bemidji in the report that she doesn't already know, that the hospital hasn't already investigated and addressed.
"For every event, there's an in-depth investigation," she said. "We evaluate processes and people's knowledge and how the event might have come to happen."
Of the 10 events here in the past year, one was fatal. Confidentiality rules prohibit hospital officials from sharing information about any of the events, but the state report breaks them down.
Once, a foreign object was left in a patient after a surgery or other procedure.
Three times, a patient fell down.
And four times, a patient developed severe ulcers caused by pressure to the skin.
The remaining two events require a deeper explanation, said Dr. David Wilcox, Sanford Bemidji's chief medical officer.
In one event, a baby died of complications at the end of a low-risk pregnancy.
Deliveries are risky by nature, Wilcox said, and "things can go wrong at any minute."
"You could have done all the preparations, and you could have everybody at the ready," he said, but sometimes these things are unavoidable. You just need to have a system in place."
The other event was a sexual assault in which no one was injured, the report said.
"What gets reported is often one patient to another patient," Wilcox said. "A confused patient walking down the hall might have another patient embrace them and kiss them.
"That's an unwanted advance of a sexual nature," he said. "We have to report that."
Sanford Bemidji had about half a million interactions with patients this year, according to Wilcox, and hosted more than 30,000 surgeries.
Minnesota was the first state in the country-and is one of five states-with a reporting system that tracks adverse health events.
Johnson said it helps the health department find and fix weaknesses common among hospitals, and it helps her see what other hospitals are doing well.
"That's the purpose of the system," she said.