State health officials recently released a report that shows each hospital's patient safety performance and incidence of serious medical errors - such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving a sponge or instrument inside a patient's body.
While health care facilities had already reported preventable medical mistakes, the state had previously just published the number of errors, not the data for individual hospitals. The new information is included in the New Jersey Hospital Performance Report, published annually by the state Department of Health and Senior Services. It can be found at the department's Web site, www.nj.gov/health/hpr.
The more specific reporting information was mandated under legislation (S-2471/A-1264) that Gov. Jon Corzine signed Aug. 31. It also bars hospitals from charging insurers or patients for procedures to correct medical mistakes.
"Consumers have always been able to scour information on which is the best car or household appliance to buy, and now they can do the same when it comes to making the most important decisions of all - how best to care for their families," said Lou Greenwald, D-Voorhees, who was one of the bill's many primary sponsors.
The legislation was overwhelmingly approved in both the Assembly and Senate, despite opposition from critics who noted that medical mistakes are not always the hospital's fault. Proponents, though, said the measure would entice poorer performing hospitals to improve patient safety and provide more transparency to the process.
"Gathering and analyzing data is the first step in developing systemwide processes to reduce errors as much as possible," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Delanco, another primary sponsor who's also a physician. "Knowledge is key, and that's what this report gives the public - knowledge about how each hospital is doing when it comes to patient safety."
Besides Greenwald and Conaway, other primary sponsors in the Assembly along were Linda Greenstein, D-Hamilton; Nilsa Cruz Perez, D-Barrington; Paul Moriarty, D-Turnersville; Joe Vas, D-Perth Amboy; Anthony Chiappone, D-Bayonne, and Doug Fisher of Bridgeton, who left the Legislature earlier this year after being appointed the state's agriculture secretary.
Primary sponsors in the Senate were Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester; Joseph Vitale, D-Woodbridge, and Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck