A doctor prepares for a surgical procedure at a hospital in Washington on June 28, 2016. More than 550 objects have been unintentionally left in Canadian surgery patients between 2016 and 2018, and the problem appears to be getting worse. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Molly Riley

VIDEO: Surgical objects left in patients on the rise in Canada, data shows

553 foreign items — such as sponges and medical instruments — were left behind over a two-year period

More than 550 objects have been unintentionally left in Canadian medical and surgery patients between 2016 and 2018, and the problem appears to be getting worse.

A new report released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says 553 foreign items — such as sponges and medical instruments — were left behind over that two-year period.

That’s a 14-per-cent increase between the most recent data collected 2017-2018 and statistics collected five years earlier.

It’s also more than two times the average rate of 12 reporting countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, which had the next highest rates.

The information was examined as part of a broad look at how Canada’s health-care system compares to other member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s director of emerging issues, said the data only notes how often the mistakes occurred, but not how or why.

“Often they are smaller things and they may be things like clips or sponges,” said Johnson, suggesting the reasons are likely complex and multifaceted.

“Some surgeries are long and complicated and if they have to change people during that surgery because some surgeries last a long time, it may be that things get missed because of that. It may be that they don’t have protocols in place — surgical checklists are one of the things that are utilized to try and prevent a number of things happening….

“What we know is patient safety is complicated. People don’t go to work to make mistakes but these things happen.”

Johnson said several peer countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, do not report on cases where foreign objects are left behind, making comparisons difficult.

And the Canadian statistic is based on data provided by hospitals in only nine provinces.

Still, Johnson said there’s clearly work to be done to improve patient safety, noting the average rate of forgotten items was 9.8 incidents per 100,000 surgeries.

That number also varied widely between regions — from a low of 5.7 per 100,000 surgeries in British Columbia to about 15 per 100,000 surgeries in Quebec, said Johnson.

She suggested that variation may have more to do with how thorough one province’s counting and recording system might be versus another, rather than apparent deficiencies in care.

The information was examined as part of a broad look at how Canada’s health-care system compares to other countries.

ALSO READ: Chilliwack woman, struck by train while trying to save man, has partial hand amputation

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: More infected passengers on planes flying to and from Okanagan and Kamloops airports

The BC Centre of Disease Control has identified numerous flights with COVID-19 cases

COVID-19: Interior Crisis Line calls increase

Calls directly related to pandemic up 25 per cent over final two weeks of March

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

Vernon family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Okanagan nordic centre loses out on 2021 nationals

Sovereign Lake near Vernon was to host 2020 Canadian championships, canceled due to COVID-19

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

COVID-19: North Okanagan spring leagues wiped out

Ladies softball, indoor and beach volleyball leagues shut down over pandemic

Land once belonged to Grand Chief Nicola

Summerland was once known as Nicola Prairie

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Editorial: Resolving to overcome COVID-19

UN resolutions reflect the notion that we’re in this together

Most Read