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More than 500 objects left in patients during surgery in Canada

A study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information is raising the alarm about the number of times surgeons left objects inside their patients during surgery.

It said between 2016 and 2018, 553 patients had foreign objects, including sponges and surgical tools, left inside them. Over five years, that rate increased by 14 per cent across Canada.

The study looked at the healthcare systems in the 34 countries that are Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members. Those members include the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany and South Korea.

Canada’s healthcare system fared well in many areas related to the quality of care. Survival rates for breast and colon cancer are among the highest in the world. Improvements have been made in reducing in-hospital deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

However, Canada performed below the international average in four out of five patient safety indicators.

Obstetrical trauma rates, including tears during vaginal childbirth, are twice as high as the international average and are not improving.

The rate of avoidable complications after surgery, like clots after hip and knee surgery, is 90 per cent higher than the international average.

“These statistics only show part of the story,” said Linda Hughes, the co-chair of Patients for Patient Safety Canada. “Each of these numbers represents a person, a family, a life. Regardless of how we do in comparison to other nations, we must accept that we face a crisis of preventable harm in Canada’s health care system, and we must act together to ensure that every patient is safe.

The OECD releases results every two years and serves as a benchmark for Canada’s performance across six dimensions of care, including health status, non-medical determinants for health, patient safety and quality of care.