The Potluck

Number of medical mistakes in Minnesota still above historical levels

By: - September 27, 2023 3:35 pm

Doctor taking a swab sample. Photo by Mladen Sladojevic/Getty Images.

Minnesota doctors left foreign objects in 36 patients’ bodies, performed the wrong procedure 18 times and executed three surgeries on the wrong person in 2022, according to a Department of Health report released Wednesday. 

Staffing shortages, an aging population and lingering pandemic effects contributed to the 572 total “adverse health effects” in Minnesota health care facilities last year, according to the report. 

Around 30% of the incidents resulted in serious injury to the patient, and in 21 cases, the patient died — the highest number of deaths since 2006.

Severe bedsores were the most common adverse health effect, and incidents have more than doubled since the start of the pandemic. Last year, hospitals reported 290 cases of severe bedsores — more than twice the number reported in 2019. 

Patients are staying in intensive care units longer than in previous years, and the shortage of health workers means fewer people are available to reposition patients. Those factors have contributed to the increased frequency of adverse health effects; the 199 events resulting in injury or death to a patient last year are the second-highest recorded since 2008.

Falls were the second-most common event, accounting for 72 injuries and six deaths.

MDH received at least 30 reports each for the following events: losing an irreplaceable biological specimen; leaving objects in a patient’s body; and performing a surgery on the wrong body part.

Providers also reported smaller numbers of suicide attempts, self-harm, medication errors and failure to communicate or follow up on test results, all resulting in the patient’s injury or death.

Twenty incidents were the result of “potentially criminal events,” which MDH defines as negative outcomes resulting from physical or sexual assault, impersonation of a health care provider or abduction of a patient.

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Madison McVan
Madison McVan

Madison McVan is a Report for America corps member who covers economic mobility for Minnesota Reformer. She previously covered agriculture for Investigate Midwest after graduating from the University of Missouri in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Latin American studies.