The main hospital serving residents of Asker and Bærum, just west of Oslo, was rocked on Friday by an investigative report in newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) . It revealed that the health and even the lives of hundreds of patients may have been threatened because their treatments were deliberately postponed. On Monday, state health officials reported its suspicions of records manipulation to the police.
Hospital administrators also have launched an investigation, with one top official saying it was “surprising and disappointing” that such a systematic failure could have occurred. On Monday, Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen said the state was asking police to investigate, “because there are suspicions patients haven’t received the treatments they should have.”
It’s suspected that treatment dates were postponed in order to make the hospital’s own performance record look better, at a time when hospitals are under severe budget pressure but also being cited for having waiting lists that are too long. VG reported that the treatment postponements altered the waiting list statistics.
Investigators are now poring over the records of nearly 4,000 patients at the hospital in recent months.
VG reported Friday that some employees at Sykehuset Asker og Bærum in Sandvika logged into the hospital’s electronic patient records system, called DIPS, and allegedly made changes that led to patients not being called in for follow-up treatments after a hospital stay. Some were cancer patients, and officials admit that lack of treatment may mean that some died while waiting for treatment.
A dozen surgeons have been called in for questioning regarding the treatments their patients should have had.
The hospital became aware of the record changes in November, after one cancer patient complained of not being called in for follow-up treatments. Only after waiting several weeks was the patient treated. In that case, hospital officials claim there were no ill effects, but it pointed up discrepancies in the system.
“It looks like there’s been a systematic attempt to get around the doctors’ medical evaluation,” one hospital worker told VG. “This can be a major scandal.”