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

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

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Chase RCMP arrest intoxicated man running into highway traffic

The man was wanted on several warrents in Alberta; was held overnight but released

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band had words of praise for the consultation between her people and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on an ongoing highway project. (Black Press file photo)
Collaboration on Shuswap highway project receives national award

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson says expansion will open new economic opportunities for the band

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Chase RCMP have been focusing during February on prohibited drivers and stolen vehicles in the North Shuswap. (File photo)
RCMP crack down on prohibited drivers in North Shuswap

Help from community aids with arrests in Anglemont and Scotch Creek

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

(HelloKelowna - Twitter)
West Kelowna billboard bearing anti-vaccine messaging deemed misleading

Ad Standards investigated the billboard, noting a lack of evidence to support the messaging

Baldy Mountain Resort is temporarily closed following the death of a resort family member. Pictured above is a sunrise at the resort, Feb. 19, 2021. (Baldy Mountain Resort/Facebook)
Baldy Mountain ski hill closed following death of resort family member

Authorities currently investigating, resort set to reopen Sunday, Feb. 27

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Most Read