Dubious Australian surgeons should have to publicly reveal safety data about their patients, according to a leading Perth doctor.
Colorectal surgeon James Aitken said Australia was falling behind other countries by not offering "open publication" of the surgical performance of individual hospitals and doctors.
In Britain, cardiothoracic surgeons gave details on a website of the hospitals where they worked, the number of operations they performed and their patients' survival rates.
Dr Aitken's comments, which are his personal view, coincide with the release of the latest WA audit into patients who die under the care of a surgeon.
The audit, which Dr Aitken chairs, shows 577 surgery-related deaths were reported last year.
Eleven patients were found to have been victims of a medical mishap. In six cases it caused their death, one of which was preventable.
Funded by the WA Health Department and managed by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the audit found a growing proportion of mistakes were related to emergency surgery rather than elective cases, and the main reason was delays in treatment.
Dr Aitken said the overall results were encouraging, showing fewer surgical deaths and those linked to preventable adverse events. In the 10 years the audit had been running in WA, there had been marked improvement in safety issues such as supervision of junior surgeons.
But while all WA surgeons had now agreed to take part, until recently some had refused to co-operate or had avoided answering some questions.
"My personal view is that we need to move to open publication of data, initially at a hospital level and then with individual surgeons," he said.
"Some surgeons might be worried it could be a witch-hunt or not adjusted for the level of risk.
"But the idea is not to have a league table where doctors are ranked but rather information so the public can be reassured their surgeon has met agreed standards and isn't someone they wouldn't want operating on their cat."
Health director-general Kim Snowball said the number of surgery-related deaths decreased from 740 in 2006 to 577 last year.
"This is a very good result, when you consider the very large increase in surgery performed in our hospitals over this period," Mr Snowball said.Taking part in the audit was now a mandatory part of surgeons' ongoing education and accreditation in public and private hospitals.
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