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Looming Threat to Health Care

Looming Threat to Health Care

Increased legislative control of the surgical profession in New Zealand may see a marked decline in the delivery of health care a leading New Zealand health expert has warned.

Mr Blair, a New Zealand Vascular Surgeon in Hamilton believes that the professionalism of surgery is being eroded along with patient care because of excessive regulatory interference by external bodies.

If a complaint is made against a surgeon, it will not be uncommon that a surgeon is investigated by three agencies at the same time ?the Accident Compensation Commission, the Health & Disability Commissioner, and the Medical Council, Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

"This multi tiered mechanism means the process is often a drawn out and harrowing experience and one which surgeons will commonly have to endure at least once in their career," said Mr Blair.

"Most significantly it has an impact on the attractiveness and long term viability of the profession and ultimately access to surgical care for the community," he said.

Mr Blair discussed the concern that whilst the definition of a profession was one in which the profession was largely self regulating, progressively this was not the case.

"We as surgeons are in danger of becoming mere ‘indentured labourers?where control is shifted into the hands of those with limited knowledge of surgery and ultimately knowledge of what is in the best interest of the patient," says Mr Blair.

"As we progressively see a situation where those outside the profession are regulating the profession we are in danger of creating an environment of defensive medicine," said Mr Blair.

"This is a particularly grim situation where surgeons are forced into decision making based around medico legal constraints versus scientific frameworks supporting best possible patient care.

Mr Blair believed that the best safeguard for patient care was the professional contract between patient and doctor and that tighter controls were definitely not the solution.

Mr Blair, will deliver a paper exploring this issue today at the Annual Scientific Congress of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The scientific gathering attracts up to 2500 medical specialists from around the world and is being held over four days between Tuesday 6 May and Friday 9 May, 2003.

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