Health Minister Bent Høie, citing a lack of patient security in Norway, plans to set up a so-called state “accident investigation board” for hospitals, rather like the board charged with investigating airline crashes. Høie’s goal is to probe cases of medical malpractice that otherwise may be covered up.
“Serious mistakes are made that are covered up (by doctors and hospital administrators),” Høie told newspaper Aftenposten, following recent articles in the paper about operations gone awry that had fatal results.
“It’s not only serious, it’s dangerous, for patients and also for health care personnel who don’t learn from their mistakes,” Høie said.
“Criminal acts can also occur within the health care sector,” he continued. “Even though they’re seldom, we must do what we can to reveal them and prevent them from occurring again.”
He doesn’t want to see more cases like those reported in Aftenposten about a two-year-old boy who died after a routine tonsillectomy, or a young man who died after knee surgery, both at Norwegian hospitals. Høie is now moving forward with setting up a commission that will investigate such cases of malpractice, just like the state’s so-called Havarikommisjon investigates airline accidents.
Høie proposed such a commission when he was still a member of the opposition for his party, the Conservatives (Høyre), in Parliament. After his party won last fall’s election and he became health minister, he said he’d await the results of a report ordered on the issue by the former Labour-led government coalition. Now he’s moving forward regardless of the report’s recommendations, which aren’t due until next year.
“There will be a new commission (to probe medical malpractice) regardless,” Høie told Aftenposten. “But I will gladly get input on how the commission can be formed.” The commission he envisions won’t cast blame or determine who was responsible, but rather gather all the facts and get to the bottom of malpractice cases, so that families and survivors can get answers and health care personnel can learn. It will operate independently of the state health authorities.
“We must work for three things in parallel: Better leadership, better systems and a better professional culture,” Høie said, adding that he suspects there have been too many cases of hospital administrators and the medical profession covering up cases of medical malpractice for fear of reprisal.