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Why has Govt reneged on addressing surgical mesh awareness?


Tuesday 25 September 2018

For Immediate Release

“Does acting Associate Health Minister James Shaw have the skills to manage such a serious health issue?” After this debacle- perhaps not.

The leaders of the New Zealand mesh patient advocacy group Mesh Down Under are gobsmacked to read a letter which is ‘asking nicely’ for DHBs and hospitals to “please support” action to minimise risk to patients. Co-leaders Carmel Berry, Patricia Sullivan and Charlotte Korte want answers as to why the Government reneged once again on promises made to address the surgical mesh issue properly as this is putting patient safety at risk.

You would think that legislation was in place to enable government officials and indeed, the Director General of Health to ‘demand’ compliance when a global health issue is uncovered and internationally recognised. Ah – but apparently not!

Mesh Down Under requested the NZ government follow action taken by several overseas countries that put an immediate suspension of surgical of mesh used in pelvic organ procedures in July of this year. They requested that the same suspension be put in place. Yet it took James Shaw nearly three months to respond. Charlotte Korte said “They were obviously trying to get all their ducks lined up in a row so they could look like something was being actioned”.

The letter was sent yesterday by the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield to all chief medical officers of all New Zealand public District Health Boards. It was followed up by a media statement this morning by Acting Associate minister of Health James Shaw. “Too many women have experienced harm as a result of surgical mesh” James Shaw declared.

Korte replied “And we agree entirely, but we’ve been telling the government this since 2012. This conciliatory statement means almost nothing when these procedures will continue and more people will be harmed. By just limiting the number of surgeons who can perform these procedures, does not guarantee that patients are being kept from harm”.

The Ministry of Health has no regulatory way to mandate or enforce this request. This is extremely concerning. There is no one in NZ with this authority. “They have absolutely no way of ensuring that only surgeons with the required surgical skills perform surgical mesh procedures” Korte said.

“The statement made today by the Ministry of Health and Government, is a weak attempt to put a positive spin on the inaction taken on a suspension”. She emphasised that the excuses given to justify this decision is that progress is happening behind the scenes. “We feel this is highly inappropriate considering that much of what is in the pipeline is yet to be initiated and discussions around implementing the credentialing of surgeons, establishing care pathways and the setting up specialist mesh clinics (which are already established overseas) have not even started”.

Patricia Sullivan added “Jacinda Ardern has stayed very quiet on this issue since coming into Government and has completely ignored the issue in the public domain. We see this as fobbing the surgical mesh disaster onto the Greens instead of taking any accountability. Perhaps this is so they can blame them when things go wrong? To not implement a surgical mesh suspension is absolute negligence in the case of patient safety and this response is not good enough”.

Carmel Berry highlighted the fact that this requirement by the MOH does not include the private sector. “Therefore, private hospitals can continue to use surgical mesh devices with no restrictions or additional safeguards in place. ACC treatment injury claim figures show that 60% of all claims are from the private sector, by not including 60% of the potential risk is a scary precedent.”

The MOH deemed it sufficient to write to the DHBs to ask them to assess all their surgeons against Australian credentialing guidelines, in the interim before the New Zealand guidelines are updated.

In this letter they stated they want to ensure that hospitals ‘have a rigorous informed consent process that includes an understanding of the associated risks. “This is completely ridiculous” Berry responded – “The Surgical Mesh Roundtable had already established that most DHBs do not have rigorous informed consent processes which is the very reason we have had a working group creating a patient information document, that outlines all the risks of surgical mesh. The Acting Associate Minister should have been briefed on this”.

This is a short-term solution with no real benefit for future patients.

This decision is extremely disappointing as it appears that once again the severity of mesh complications has also not been considered”. Mesh Down Under once again calls on Jacinda Ardern to step in and take charge of the situation to, get it right this time.


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