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Gov. Gregoire Announces Agreement to Improve Patient Safety and Reduce Costs

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2008

SEATTLE – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced the adoption of a resolution by three major state medical associations to help ensure that patients are treated fairly by the health care system.

At her request, the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) and the Washington Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (WASCA) adopted the voluntary agreement to not ask patients to pay for care related to serious medical errors.

“The willingness of these three major medical associations to take this step reflects the interest of Washingtonians to pay only for appropriate treatment, and will further reduce the cost of health care for all of us,” said Gregoire. “Every step we can take to make health care more affordable is important. There is no single answer but many, many smaller solutions collectively will solve our health care crisis.”

The agreement applies to 28 specific “adverse events” such as wrong site surgery, death or serious disability from malfunction of a device or from a fall, or a serious ulcer of the skin.

The number of adverse events in Washington state is very small. Out of a total of about 600,000 hospital admissions from June 2006 to July 2007, there were 180 such events reported to the state.

“Improving the quality of care in our state is of utmost importance to the Washington State Medical Association and our physician members,” said Dr. Brian Wicks, association president. “Certainly no patient should be expected to pay for an adverse event, such as a wrong site surgery or removal of a foreign object post surgery.”

“This resolution furthers my goal of cultivating a culture of quality within our health care system, and conveys to the public that what they expect from that system is exactly what will happen, and they have a right to question it when it doesn’t,” Gregoire added.

“Washington state’s hospitals are pleased to join the governor in ensuring that no patients are asked to pay for care related to an adverse event,” said Leo Greenawalt, WSHA president. “This is current practice in most of our hospitals, and fortunately, adverse events are very rare. With the governor’s help, all of the state’s health care providers are coming together with a unified plan. It is simply what patients expect,” he said.

“Ambulatory surgery centers have been dedicated to patient safety. We salute the governor’s leadership for bringing all the parties together,” said Terry Hawes, WASCA president.

Washington is the fourth state in which such an agreement has been announced, joining Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont, although in each of those states the agreement applies only to hospitals. Given the statewide membership of the three associations, the resolution has the potential to benefit most Washington patients.

The agreement reflects what the associations believe to be the current standard of practice for most of their members. However, the adoption and today’s announcement of this formal resolution provide even more assurance of its consistent and uniform application.

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