Alarming increase in SAC-1 incidents and deaths in WA hospitals in 2020-21

Almost 150 people died in WA hospitals in 2020-21 as a result of a clinical incident rather than their underlying illness or condition, according to latest figures from WA Health.
The shocking figure was revealed in the “Your safety in our hands in hospital” report which indicated there had been a total of 586 Severity Assessment Code 1 (SAC-1) incidents in 2020-21 with 147 resulting in death.
A SAC-1 incident is classified as an incident that could have or did cause serious harm or death to a patient due to health care provision (or lack thereof) rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.
Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said the latest figure was a 16 per cent increase on the number of SAC-1 incidents (506) reported in 2019-20 and was a sad reminder of the increasing pressure healthcare workers faced in an under-resourced system.
“No-one goes to hospital expecting to suffer serious harm or death as a result of improper health care but to have 147 people die in our so-called world-class health system is truly gobsmacking,” Ms Mettam said.
“That is 147 people who went to hospital expecting the very best treatment but tragically died as a result of the care, or lack thereof, provided in our hospitals. It’s absolutely devastating for their families and friends,” Ms Mettam said.
“We know that this year especially our healthcare workers have continually been asked to do more with less, with double shifts and overtime the norm and many suffering fatigue and burn-out.
“It is completely unacceptable that in a State as prosperous as ours we are reporting so many unnecessary deaths and is yet another damning indictment of the disregard the McGowan Government has had in ensuring our hospital systems have been properly resourced.”
Of the 586 SAC-1 incidents, 19 were sentinel events, which are classified as wholly preventable.
The report revealed three people died and five people were seriously harmed due to a medication error while three patients died by suspected suicide while in an acute psychiatric unit.
Two other patients suffered serious harm after receiving surgery on the wrong site or retaining a foreign object after surgery.
“This is not the standard of care Western Australians expect or deserve. This latest figure is a sharp increase on the number of SAC-1 incidents (481) reported when the McGowan Government was elected in 2017 and Western Australians rightly deserve to know why this government has not prioritised our health system.” Ms Mettam said.