Health chiefs ‘failed’ on records

  • Gitanjali Gutierrez (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Gitanjali Gutierrez (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Health chiefs have admitted they failed to carry out a “reasonable search” for records about incidents that resulted in harm to patients at the island’s general hospital.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board initially told The Royal Gazette, in response to a public access to information request, that it had logged only 13 such events at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital between 2011 and 2015.

After an investigation was launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the board looked for more records, revealing in June last year that 430 incidents resulting in harm to patients had actually been logged for the time frame.

Of those, 28 fell into the three most serious categories of harm — 14 patients died unexpectedly, five needed life-saving treatment and nine suffered permanent harm as a result.

The BHB later released information on six more serious events over the same period, including another four deaths.

Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez, in a decision due to be made public today, found that the board did not conduct a reasonable search when it processed the newspaper’s Pati request and that it admitted that to the ICO.

She said that failure “led to an incomplete and inaccurate initial response to the Pati request”.

Ms Gutierrez said that after her office began its inquiry, the board conducted additional searches, which were verified by her team.

“The board accepts that it did not conduct a reasonable search,” she said.

“The information commissioner notes that this was one of the first Pati requests handled by the board and its practices have developed since that time.

“The information commissioner is satisfied that the BHB’s additional search was reasonable and expresses appreciation to the board for its efforts during this review.”

The Royal Gazette first asked for the records in September 2015 and received a response in December that year.

The newspaper asked then BHB chairman Peter Everson to review the decision and he upheld it in February 2016, prompting a review to be sought by the ICO.

The disclosure of additional records in June last year showed that there were 4,090 incidents reported by staff at KEMH between March 28, 2011 and December 31, 2015.

Michael Richmond, the BHB’s chief of staff, said then that there was no effort to mislead the public and the board’s aim was to be fully transparent. He has since pledged to publish the BHB’s incident statistics four times a year in future.

A BHB spokeswoman said yesterday: “BHB is committed to appropriate transparency but sensitive to the confidential nature of patient information.

“Certainly this process has been a learning journey for BHB: about how we define sentinel events and what was being asked for, and what is in the best interests for people to know.

“We will continue to rely on Bermuda’s legislation to guide us in the most sensitive areas of patient information, but will continue to seek ways to better share our quality and safety data with Bermuda.”

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Published Feb 13, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 13, 2019 at 7:41 am)

Health chiefs ‘failed’ on records

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