Medical Errors and Injuries in Canada

When an individual is suffering from an emergency medical issue and requires a doctor’s care, the last thing that they want to think of is the possibility of medical errors during treatment. Unfortunately, medical errors committed by in-hospital doctors are a very real possibility, and in fact occur much more often than one may think. A 2015 National Post investigation concluded that as many as 70,000 patients in Canadian hospitals experience injuries as a result of these preventable medical errors each year.

Traditional wisdom would suggest that such medical errors may be caused primarily by factors such as overwork, lack of sleep, improper training or insufficient oversight, among others. For example, it is well-known that Canadian medical residents work extremely grueling hours, with shifts very regularly exceeding a that of a “typical” nine-to-five workday. In fact, a 2014 Globe and Mail article found that the average workweek for Canadian medical residents is 60 - 90 hours, with some individual shifts exceeding 26 hours. However, that same Globe and Mail article concluded that it was not overwork, lack of sleep, or exhaustion that contributed most to the increasing number of preventable medical errors reported each year, but rather that the primary culprit was “patient handover”.

Patient handover refers to the process when one responsible doctor (or other medical professional) passes information and responsibility relating to a patient’s treatment and care to another doctor or medical professional. In handover situations, it is important that the incoming medical professional be provided with complete and thorough details relating to the patient’s condition, care, and even physical location, so that the incoming doctor can hit the ground running and provide a seamless transition of care. However, this ideal is often not the case, and many important details can fall through the cracks as handovers become more and more rushed. This loss of detail and missing information is one of the primary causes of preventable medical errors, concludes the same 2014 Globe and Mail article.

Medical errors can have severe consequences for patients - including delayed healing or recovery, worsening or aggravation of existing injuries, or the development of entirely new injury - and may provide a basis for a claim of medical malpractice. Please do not hesitate to contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Rodin Law Firm if you have any questions about the medical care or treatment you have received. We can be contacted online or by telephone at (403) 216-0385.

Ellie Staniloff