There has been a recent increase in civil claims settlements as a result of nursing malpractice at private hospitals across the country. The Department of Nursing and Midwifery at Stellenbosch has published a new study which found some of the biggest causes of malpractice include the failure of nurses to follow guidelines, as well as the poor monitoring of patients.
The report focuses mainly on private healthcare facilities in the Western Cape and Gauteng and shows that staff in these facilities take less initiative.
“The quality of care is declining, in both the state and private sectors,” said Professor Ethelwynn Stellenberg of the Department. “The cost of clinical mistakes is just too high.”
“It is not only the increase in the number of claims that is troubling but also the scale, with many amounting to payouts of millions of rand. In the end these costs are passed on to the consumer,” said Stellenberg.
She also found it concerning that the majority of these cases are settled quietly, as this means that important information does not reach the people who use private hospitals.
Stellenberg reached out to large healthcare organisations to acquire court documents for the study, but her requests were denied after they sought legal advice. “Fortunately many of them saw the need for this research,” Stellenberg said.
The study found the following:
– A total of 122 completed cases were studied, with a fifth of them recording death in patients.
– Nursing malpractice affected the quality of life of a considerable number of the victims (69%), with 43% requiring additional surgery and 25% left with disabilities.
– At the top of the list of factors that contributed to civil claims is the failure to follow guidelines (91%), followed by, among others, a lack of knowledge (75%), poor monitoring of patients (69%), failure to administer prescribed medication (66%), failure to respond to clinical signs (63%) and insufficient training (52%).
Stellenberg noted an “alarming” lack of interpretation amongst nursing staff.
According to her, staff will write down the readings of machines monitoring patients, but they won’t necessarily pay attention to basic nursing care, like doing a physical examination after back surgery to make sure that patients have sensation in their feet or legs.
“In some cases, specific complaints about this issue were ignored, with serious consequences,” Stellenberg said.
Not only is the state sector under pressure, but the private sector as well.
“This issue can’t just be swept under the rug. We will have to find a way to apply pressure to ensure safe and quality care for patients. Profits can’t be pursued at the expense of the patient. And integrity and ethical leadership are of critical importance,” she said.