Canada’s health authorities are investigating how more than 500 objects have been unintentionally left in medical and surgery patients between 2016 and 2018 with the problem appearing to be getting worse.
A new report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information says 553 sponges, medical instruments and other objects were left in patients over that period.
That's a 14 percent increase between the most recent data collected and statistics collected five years earlier, and more than two times the average rate of 12 reporting countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, which had the next highest rates.
The information was examined as part of a broad look at how Canada's health-care system compares to other member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Tracy Johnson, CIHI's director of emerging issues, said the data only notes how often the mistakes occurred, not how or why. "Often they are smaller things and they may be things like clips or sponges," she said, suggesting the reasons are likely complex and multifaceted.
"Some surgeries are long and complicated and if they have to change people during that surgery because some surgeries last a long time, it may be that things get missed because of that. It may be that they don't have protocols in place — surgical checklists are one of the things that are utilized to try and prevent many things happening.
"What we know is patient safety is complicated. People don't go to work to make mistakes, but these things happen."
Johnson said several peer countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, do not report on cases where foreign objects are left behind, making