Hospital Negligence

Hospital Negligence Lawyers

Patients are in hospital at the moments of greatest need for their wellbeing and health. Those needs are most often addressed in a professional and caring way. Unfortunately instances arise when this is not the case for reasons related to systemic deficiencies or human error. When this is the case it can have harmful or even fatal consequences to the patient. When the harm is caused by a failure to adhere to the standard of care required in the circumstances then the patient and his or her family have a right to recover monetary damages. There are many ways in which hospital negligence can occur. We have listed here some of the malpractice errors that are made by hospitals and their employees. Contact us if you or a family member has suffered as a result of hospital malpractice and you would like to know whether it is feasible to assert legal rights to recover compensation for the harm done. We have experience prosecuting malpractice cases over each and every one of the forms of hospital negligence that are listed on this page.

Hospitals are not responsible for the Malpractice of Doctors

A common misconception exists that hospitals are responsible for the mistakes of doctors providing medical care at their institutions. This is not the case in Ontario. Hospitals are responsible for errors committed by their nurses, technicians, health professionals forming part of the allied health team and its administrative staff. This page deals with negligence for which a hospital is responsible. If you want information about medical malpractice by doctors then please visit our medical malpractice litigation page.

Examples of Hospital Negligence

Medication errors

Nursing errors in the administration of medication are known to comprise a significant proportion of all preventable medical errors occurring in the hospital setting. They can be caused in many ways including providing an incorrect dose or drug, failing to provide the correct frequency of doses, failing to use the correct method of administering the drug and failing to administer properly causing an extravastion injury. Hospital pharmacists can also be responsible for failing to recognize and warn about detrimental drug interactions or unsuitable prescriptions. More information is available on our medication error page.

Failing to follow procedures or protocols

Hospital staff must adhere to the standards applicable to their profession whether they are nurses, radiology technicians, pharmacists or anesthesia or surgical assistants. When they fail to do so then the hospital will be liable for these errors.

Failing to process

This is a category of hospital negligence that is most commonly associated with the triage process in the emergency room. Nurses are responsible for the triage of patients. When they fail to triage or fail to do it in a timely way or fail to do it in accordance with triage guidelines then the hospital will be responsible for the consequences. Failure to process errors can also occur when nurses fail to carry through doctor’s orders. When harm results from such errors then the hospital will be liable for the damages that are caused by them.

Failure to Monitor

The duty to monitor the patient is a very important one for nurses to fulfill. It is especially important for those patients, who have not yet been diagnosed, or who are unstable or who suffer from a condition that can lead to rapid deterioration in their health. Significant changes to the patient’s health condition should be detected, recorded and communicated. Certain patients also need to be monitored so that they will not cause harm to themselves or others.

Failure to communicate

Hospitals are very much a support system for doctors in the provision of medical care to its patients. When nurses fail to communicate significant changes in a patient’s condition or vital signs to the doctor in charge of the patient’s care then this can have adverse effects on the patient’s health for which the hospital will be responsible. Hospital liability can also arise if technicians or other hospital personnel fail to communicate the reports of diagnostic testing to doctors resulting in a failure to diagnose properly.

Failure to transfer in a timely way

In local and community hospitals situations can arise which are beyond the capability of the hospital and its staff to deal with, resulting in the need to transfer the patient to a tertiary care facility or even simply another department in the hospital. If steps are not taken to arrange this in a timely way in keeping with the seriousness of the patient’s condition then the hospital will be liable for the consequences of the delay in treatment.

Failure to have operating rooms and staff ready

This is a hospital error that can have devastating effects in labour and delivery cases when the timing to birth or delivery is critical depending upon the status of fetal health. Hospitals have a duty to be aware of the number of patients that may need urgent or immediate surgical care and make arrangements to have the capacity to deal with these patients.

Equipment failure

Although this is not a common occurrence equipment failure can result in the denial of diagnostic aids to the patient and doctor leading to failure to diagnose, or in the denial of surgical treatment resulting in the delay of treatment or can even result in harm to the patient due to malfunction such as causing a fire on the operating table for example.

Improper handling of tissue or biopsy specimens

Unfortunately biopsy specimens are not always labeled properly. When this happens the interpretive report can be misleading in the diagnostic process if it provides information relating to another patient. This can result in failure to treat a significant condition, or in the reverse situation, result in surgery that is not indicated or necessary.

Failure to follow up

This type of error most often occurs after a surgery. Some surgeries require follow on patient care to monitor progress and take any diagnostic imaging that may be required. If this is not arranged then the hospital can be responsible for the harm that this omission causes. This type of error can also occur when a patient is transferred to another facility but incomplete instructions concerning diagnostic testing, medication or medical care are provided to the receiving health care institution.

Inadequate or outdated policies

Hospitals must keep up to date with advances in nursing care and hospital organization. If it falls behind in this regard then it may be liable for its failure to do so. Examples are failure to implement practices to control the spread of infection, failure to have surgical checklists and failure to organize an emergency department properly.

Failure to check credentials

While a hospital is not vicariously liable for the negligence or malpractice of the doctors providing services at its facility it does grant privileges allowing the doctors to perform services in its facility. When the hospital grants privileges to doctors who aren’t properly qualified then this is an act of negligence for which it can be held responsible. Similarly if the hospital continues to renew privileges of a doctor which has not performed at an acceptable level then this act can also create liability on the part of the hospital. In these situations liability arises only if the omission is a cause of harm suffered by the patient.


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