Errors decline, sexual assault spikes in Connecticut hospitals

Although errors have declined in Connecticut hospitals, sexual assault cases have increased by 140 percent. (Presidencia de la República Mexicana/Creative Commons)

Although errors have declined in Connecticut hospitals, sexual assault cases have increased by 140 percent. (Presidencia de la República Mexicana/Creative Commons)

In Connecticut hospitals, the error rate declined by 5 percent in 2016 while the sexual assault rate doubled, according to the Hartford Courant

The Department of Public Health (DPH) reported a total of 431 medical errors in 2016, a 5 percent decrease from 456 in 2015, according to the Courant.

There were 24 reported cases of sexual assault in 2016 while 10 were reported in 2015, according to the DPH. This is a 140 percent increase, according to the Courant.   

These sexual assault cases include assaults against both patients and staff “within or on the grounds of a healthcare setting,” the Courant said.

None of the cases which the DPH reported were connected with the University of Connecticut’s John Dempsey Hospital, according to the Courant.

Twenty-two of the 24 reported cases took place at “acute” care hospitals with 10 happening at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport and seven at Yale New Haven Hospital, according to the DPH.

Acute healthcare is defined as “a level of healthcare in which a patient is treated for a brief but severe episode of illness, for conditions that are the result of disease or trauma and during recovery from surgery,” according to the Connecticut Hospitals Today study

Mary Cooper, vice president and chief quality officer at the Connecticut Hospital Association, said that while there was an increase in sexual assault, this may signify that “hospital employees feel more comfortable reporting when they suspect or see an assault.”

Of the 24 reported cases of assault, seven were staff to patient, two were patient to staff, five were unknown perpetrator to patient and 10 were patient to patient, according to the Courant.

The Courant said no acute care hospitals reported zero “adverse” incidents.

An adverse incident is one in which unwanted or unexpected results are the effects of the medical machinery or another person, according to the British Society of Interventional Radiology

Such incidents may include a medical device failure, poor user training or inadequate maintenance, according to the website.  

The DPH also reported an increase in 2016 in wrong site surgeries from 13 to 18 cases. Surgical procedures performed on the wrong patient increased from one to six cases.

Patient suicide, attempted suicide or self-harm rose from three to five cases, reported the DPH.

The DPH also reported that perforations from laparoscopic or endoscopic procedures resulting in death rose from 49 to 58 cases.

A laparoscopic procedure is characterized as “minimally invasive procedure that requires only small incisions,” according to Healthline

Laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures do not often result in death, according to Healthline.

According to the Courant, infant deaths and deaths associated with labor dropped from five to two cases.

According to Lisa Freeman, executive director of the nonprofit Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, victims are feeling increasingly willing to speak out, particularly in cases of sexual assault.

“Zero sexual assaults is, obviously, where we want to be,” Freeman told the Courant.

Freeman said sexaul assault against patients is especially concerning because “they are really vulnerable.”

The transparency of mandatory reporting has helped improve reporting rates, according to Freeman.

“No amount of medical harm is OK. There are things that we just shouldn’t have to see,” Freeman told the Courant. “We are really promoting people coming forward and talking about these things. More reporting is always better because it lets us get to the root of what’s going on.”   

“We are still focused on safety,” Cooper told the Courant. “That will never go away.”


Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at abigail.brone@uconn.edu.