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Over the past year, hospitals in Washington left “foreign objects” in 36 surgery patients. And 21 people got surgery on the wrong body parts. Hospitals have reported such “adverse events” to the state Department of Health since 2000, also including performing surgery on the wrong patient, and medication errors that can kill or seriously harm patients. But now the Washington State Hospital Association says it doesn’t want the public to know which hospitals made the mistakes. It contends that a bill passed last year forbids release of such records, and the association has gotten the state to halt disclosure. At least one state lawmaker is vowing to fight back. “That was not the intent of the Legislature; that was not the intent of the bill,” said Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, who sponsored a previous law that allowed for public disclosure of such records. “The intent was to give the public the maximum information.

“We want to know if somebody was killed by using the wrong gas; if they’re cutting off the wrong legs … I’d like to avoid that. The public has a right to know these things. Their tax money is being used here. It’s their lives, their families.” The point of the record-keeping, say health officials and hospital managers, is that sometimes patterns can be revealed and the hospitals can use the reports to help prevent problems from happening again.

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