Inquiry finds major failings at Wanganui Hospital
Commissioner inquiry finds major failings at Wanganui Hospital
Embargoed until 12.01am Tuesday 26 February 2008
Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson says that when provincial hospitals face workforce shortages, appointment, supervision and quality control processes must be rigorous.
This follows Mr Paterson's inquiry into the failed sterilisation of eight women treated at Wanganui Hospital in 2005 and 2006 by Dr Roman Hasil, a doctor from Slovakia.
Six of the women became pregnant despite having had tubal ligations performed by Dr Hasil. Most of the women had their pregnancies terminated.
In a report outlining what he calls 'a sorry saga', Mr Paterson censures the doctor and the Whanganui District Health Board for serious failings in the care of women at the hospital.
His findings include:
· Wanganui Hospital cut corners in the face of endemic workforce shortages
· Inadequate reference checking and credentialling resulted in the recruitment of Dr Hasil, who had a 'chequered work and medical registration history' in Australia
· Dr Hasil and his supervisor worked demanding and unsustainable hours in a grossly understaffed department
· A failure to respond adequately to patient complaints and serious staff concerns about Dr Hasil's competence and alcohol consumption allowed an unsafe situation to continue.
Mr Paterson says: 'It is tempting to cut corners when faced with endemic workforce shortages. But a lack of care in appointing staff, and failure to identify problems and act decisively, results in unnecessary harm to all involved - to patients, to doctors and to public confidence in a local hospital.'
He says it is short-sighted for hospitals to struggle on with substandard arrangements in the hope that disaster will be averted and things will get better eventually.
'It may be better to bite the bullet and face potential community outrage if a service is closed rather than muddle on and cause long-term harm to community confidence and a DHB's committed staff, when patients are harmed and the inevitable external inquiries follow.'
Mr Paterson says the report has national implications. Regional and national service planning is essential. He has again called for increased co-ordination and collaboration across district health boards to protect patient safety.
He says: 'Greater coordination and collaboration across DHBs should not be left to serendipity nor should it be forced by a clinical failure or a rushed reaction to adverse publicity.'
The key findings and recommendations from the report are summarised in the attached executive summary. A copy of the Commissioner's report is available at www.hdc.org.nz/opinions/07HDC03504.