Over the past two years, public hospitals in New South Wales have seen an increase in wholly preventable events causing serious harm or death. These incidents are known as sentinel events.

In 2018-2019 there were 22 sentinel events that occurred in New South Wales and 5 of these events happened within the South Western Sydney Local Health District. This is the highest number of sentinel events in a single health district.

What are sentinel events?

In 2019 the definition of sentinel events was updated to include two new types of events. The full list of sentinel events includes:

  • Surgery or other invasive procedure performed on the wrong site.
  • Surgery or other invasive procedure performed on the wrong patient.
  • Wrong surgical or other invasive procedure performed on a patient.
  • Unintended retention of a foreign object in a patient after surgery or other invasive procedure.
  • Blood transfusion reaction resulting from incompatibility.
  • Suspected suicide of a patient in an acute psychiatric unit or acute psychiatric ward.
  • Medication error.
  • Use of physical or mechanical restraint.
  • Discharge or release of an infant or child to an unauthorised person.
  • Use of an incorrectly positioned oro- or naso- gastric tube.

The most common sentinel events are:

  • instruments or other materials retained in a person after surgery, requiring a further operation or surgical procedure; and
  • the suicide of a patient in an inpatient unit.[1]

These statistics refer solely to sentinel events in New South Wales public hospitals. However, these events can also happen in private hospitals. The collection of these statistics allows public hospitals to identify areas for improvement.

Get in touch with us

Sentinel and other adverse events can have devastating effects on both the patient and their family. Entering hospital for treatment and then sustaining an unexpected injury can also cause significant psychological harm. However, poor outcomes and adverse events do not necessarily amount to medical negligence.  At Turner Freeman, we have specialist medical negligence lawyers who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements.  Our lawyers are located across NSW including in Sydney, Parramatta, Wollongong and Newcastle.

If you or someone you know has suffered as a result of medical negligence, we encourage you to call us on 13 43 63 to speak with one of our medical law experts.

[1] https://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/our-work/reports/health-2019