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Surgical mesh tragedies a national scandal

Surgical mesh tragedies a national scandal

Recent revelations about the extent of the disastrous outcomes for New Zealand women having surgical mesh implants again emphasises how difficult it is for people suffering serious adverse effects from surgery to get effective follow-up treatment or even to access their complete medical files, according to DSC health spokesman David Tranter.

Recent ACC figures showing 421 claims involving mesh-related injuries between March 2010 and March 2013 - while the Ministry of Health’s Medsafe received a mere 19 reports for that period - shows an alarming absence of effective checking on what is happening in this area.

Warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Association in 2008 and 2011 against using surgical mesh to treat organ prolapse further highlights the lack of awareness by the authorities in this country.

Perhaps most alarming of all is that New Zealand medical professionals aren’t required to report on problems arising from the use of mesh in surgery, Mr. Tranter said.

Many cases I have become aware of, including several I have been involved in as a patient advocate, show that despite the various means supposedly available for patients to appeal to, the process is essentially one of DHB secrecy/cover-up and confusion arising from appeals for help being endlessly delayed. While such agencies as the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner may take up a patient’s complaint such enquiries often get lost in a bureaucratic maze. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that even if these agencies back the patient’s complaint they appear to have no power to compel DHBs to act on their recommendations, Mr. Tranter said.

The gap between typical DHB PR hype and reality is shown by the CDHB’s chief medical officer Nigel Millar being on record saying; “The patient owns their health record, we have to get over ourselves”, (quoted from the New Zealand Doctor). Another reported comment by Dr. Millar reads; “The patient owns the record to read, to annotate, to correct, to control”. Yet in one recent case Dr. Millar’s own DHB is still not releasing information recommended for release by the Privacy Commissioner - this nearly two years after the operation in question.
When a reported 20 percent of patients suffer complications from the use of mesh in surgery it is an appalling indictment of health administration at the highest levels that these matters - and they frequently have tragic consequences - don’t have to be reported.

The DSC applaud the two women who are taking a petition to Parliament about this matter and we call upon the Minister of Health to cease his repeated claims regarding other concerns I have taken to him that it is “not appropriate” for him to get involved, Mr. Tranter said.


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