A cancer patient has had the wrong side of his bowel removed at Northern Beaches Hospital (NBH) in Sydney, Australia after a private-contracted laboratory botched his pathology results.
The male patient was undergoing colorectal surgery at the public-private hospital last week when surgeons took out the wrong section of his colon.
The Sydney Morning Herald understands the serious mistake was the result of an error in the patient’s pathology report supplied by NBH’s external pathology provider, Australian Clinical Labs.
The patient returned to NBH to undergo corrective surgery on Friday. It is not known what effects the error could have on his long term health.
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Australian Clinical Labs’ director of communications said the company does not comment on individual patient cases due to privacy and referred questions to NBH.
A spokesman for the hospital’s private operator Healthscope said the patient and his family had been provided with full disclosure and NBH was supporting his ongoing care and treatment.
The hospital reported the incident to the Ministry of Health, in line with protocol, the Healthscope spokesman said in a statement.
“The incident was immediately notified to NSW Health and the cause of the error is under investigation,” the statement read.
So-called “wrong-site surgery” is one of the most serious, rare and preventable medical errors, known as a sentinel event. They must be reported at the highest levels of the health system.
Between 2011-2012 and 2016-2017 there were only four sentinel events recorded in NSW involving procedures on the wrong patient or body part resulting in death or major permanent loss of function, according to the latest official data.
Australian Clinical Labs was awarded a long term contract to provide pathology services to the 488-bed Northern Beaches public-private hospital to perform comprehensive pathology services including haematology, anatomical pathology, microbiology, biochemistry, immunology and serology at its on-site laboratory.
It is the largest private provider of pathology services to public hospitals in Australia, servicing more than 90 public and private hospitals, according to its website.
A NSW Health spokesperson said procedures involving the wrong body, regardless of the outcome, must be reported to the Ministry of Health.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was unable to comment while the investigation was underway. The investigation will determine whether the case will be officially recorded as a sentinel event.
The serious error comes after Labor secured a parliamentary inquiry, with the power to subpoena past and present staff, over concerns the new hospital’s public-private status prevented the Auditor-General from examining its operations and outcomes.
The three senior executives stepped down in the days and weeks after the hospital’s opening eight months ago, marred by shortages of essential drugs and medical equipment, understaffing and concerns over systemic failures that compromised patient care.
The inquiry will also feature current hospital senior executives, NSW Health beaurocrats. Individuals are also invited to share their experiences. Submissions to the inquiry close July 28. The first hearing is set for August 26.
Last week, Healthscope announced a suite of senior appointments, including chief operation officer Paul Darcy and director of nursing Fiona Allsop, after the departure of the former nursing chief Moran Wasson.
A new chief executive is expected to be announced in the coming days.