Oregon’s Patient Safety Commission announced its new head Tuesday — Gwen Cox, a critical care nurse out of Eastern Oregon.

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Cox succeeds Bethany Walmsley, who has led the commission for the last five years.

Beth Walmsley leaves the Oregon Patient Safety Commission after five years at the helm. She's proud of the improvements the commission has ushered in over the last 10 years.

Beth Walmsley leaves the Oregon Patient Safety Commission after five years at the helm. She's proud of the improvements the commission has ushered in over the last 10 years.

Kristian Foden-Vencil / OPB

Oregon’s Patient Safety Commission is still a relatively young organization. Its first hospital safety program only started 10 years ago. And Walmsley said there’s still a lot of work to do. “It’s well known that patient safety and harm that could be prevented is something that we need to continue to work on."

"The fact that we exist as an organization is an incredible boon to this conversation. Most states don’t have that,” she said.

The commission works by helping hospitals, nursing centers and pharmacies adopt best practices, rather than by punishing them when problems occur. So it’s all carrots and no sticks.

Nationwide, about 300,000 patients die each year because of preventable mistakes.

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