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In an effort to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of errors that occur in hospitals and nursing homes across the country, starting in 2002 advocacy groups like the National Quality Forum (NQF), a nonprofit organization geared toward developing a strategy for measuring the quality of healthcare in the United States, introduced the idea of "never events." That is, events, mistakes, or errors that should never occur in the healthcare setting. A 2002 NQF report, updated in 2006, started by introducing a list of 27 Serious reportable Events (SREs). The list was intended to bring order to adverse event reporting within the healthcare industry, and to increase public accountability on behalf of healthcare providers, as well as to increase consumer access to this critical information.

Soon healthcare providers, facilities and some states began adopting the list of SREs as events that must be reported. Eventually, some of the events on the list of SREs became known as "Never Events." Then, starting in October, 2008 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began refusing payment for certain never events. That is, in the eyes of the federal government, some medical errors and events should simply never occur in the healthcare setting. If they do, Medicare and Mediccaid will not pay the provider for the care necessary to treat a patient suffering a never event. For example, pressure sores, also called decubitus ulcers, are on the list of never events for which the federal government will not pay. If a patient sustains a pressure sore/ulcer as a result of not being turned and re-positioned frequently enough in a hospital or nursing home, neither Medicare nor Medicaid will pay the facility for the care required to treat the sore, or for complications arising from the sore, which can include death.

The list of never events has emerged as a consensus in the medical community of errors and events that should never happen. The following are some of the events/errors included on the list of never events for which Medicare and Medicaid will not pay:

  • Foreign object left in the body after surgery
  • Air Embolism
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections
  • Pressure Sores/Ulcers
  • Vascular Catheter-Associated Infections
  • Hospital-Acquired Injuries such as Fractures, Dislocations, Intracranial Injuries, Crushing Injuries, Burns
  • The use of incompatible Blood

The list and proliferation of never events, including the intolerance for such events by the federal government in the form of refusing payment , is an important step toward better patient safety and care, and patient awareness. And while accidents do and will occur, the reporting of and non-payment for never events will help to reduce these errors.

If you or a loved one has experienced one of the never events listed above at a hospital or nursing home, you may want to consider contacting one the the attorneys at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP for a free consultation and to learn your rights.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for William Eadie

    It amazes me that there is an effort to take away a person's right to fair compensation for their injuries under "tort deform," when these types of never events still occur on a regular basis. just like the car, food products, and infant products, hospital visits are made much safer by the old-fashioned "market force" of people making companies liable for their actions.

    Thanks for the information on where we can go to learn more about these never events!

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