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Minerva Pediatrica 2005 December;57(6):399-410


language: Italian

Risk management: medical malpractice and Emergency Department

Di Pietro P., Lattere M., Villa G., Piccotti E., D’Agostino P


Because of the limited number of comprehensive paediatric centres, providing the entire continuum of paediatric care, including subspecialty care, and generally serving as regional referral centres for tertiary paediatrics, paediatric emergency care in Italy is often provided in adult facilities within primarily adult hospital institutions. Consequently, most paediatricians working in hospitals with a separate paediatric ward or department provide Emergency Department (ED) on-call coverage with serious liability concerns: such concerns are due to the fact that successful care of infants and children in an emergency situation requires appropriately sized equipment, well trained staff, appropriate and specialised triage and destination guidelines but, unfortunately, not all Italian facilities fulfil all these criteria. Risk management training of the entire ED staff may reduce the institution's involvement in malpractice litigation. Another useful tool within a paediatric ED is an Observation Unit (OU) for well-defined illnesses (such as asthma, croup, bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, abdominal pain, mild dehydration, overdoses or poisoning, seizures), which can assure better patient's care, a decrease in missed diagnosis and acuity and decreased lenght of stay, and, consequently, a better risk management, decreased malpractice liability and cost effectiveness. Furthermore, in our paper we aimed to highlight the importance of aspects with a potential risk exposure in our profession, such as informed consent, exculpatory release forms, incident reports and complete ED record documentation of paediatric patients. In addition to that, the quality of care provided at ED in Italy has been assessed by analysing ED-related paediatric malpractice claims in the last 10 years. Finally, the importance of a joint commission within the Italian Paediatrics Society is underlined in order to discuss practice guidelines for paediatricians involved in emergency care.

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