September 27, 2022

The reports of our deaths have been greatly exaggerated

Hi there,

An obituary of Mark Twain once appeared before his demise. When asked about this by the press, his characteristically wry response was “the report of my death has been greatly exaggerated”.

I wonder what he would make of 200 exaggerated reports. Just as a bit of comic relief, let us focus on the latest hospital scandal in Australia. The Austin Hospital in Melbourne sent out 200 reports to general practitioners informing them that their patients had died. The real story was that they had been successfully discharged from the hospital.

Explanation? The hospital blamed clerical error and a wrong mouse click. According to its spokeswoman:

“Austin Health automatically notifies GPs when their patients are discharged from hospital. Notifications sent in the early hours of Wednesday, 30th July, incorrectly advised GPs that their patients, who had been discharged the previous day from the Austin Hospital, had died.”

The hospital has apologised unreservedly for the night of the living dead, but the issue is still alive in Parliament. The opposition leader used it to hammer the government: it is “symptomatic of a health system that is in crisis, a health system where emergency departments are full”.

It’s lucky that the paperwork was sent to GPs rather than to families. I can imagine that some people might have turned up their toes immediately upon opening a letter like that. Why do we need expensively-produced TV comedy when all we need to do is look at the evening news? 

Michael Cook
The Austin Hospital in Melbourne sent out 200 reports to general practitioners informing them that their patients had died.
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