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National calls for inquiry on heart patient deaths

Dr Lynda Scott National Health Spokesperson

18 February 2003

National calls for inquiry on heart patient deaths

National is calling for an inquiry into why eight heart patients died while waiting for surgery when Wellington Hospital had funding available for heart patients.

"It is shocking to think that Wellington Hospital chose to spend $1.7 million on other things instead of the heart surgery it was earmarked for, and that eight patients died waiting for heart surgery in that time.

"It is completely unacceptable that money is being put before people's lives.

"Wellington Hospital should have used private or other hospital facilities if it didn't have the capacity for the heart patients on its waiting list. Health Minister Annette King must intervene and hold this Board to account.

"I am alarmed that it is seen as an 'achievement' in this Board's 2002-03 Annual Plan to do all surgery in-house. The fact is it has not completed all the surgery it should have and patients have died as a result.

"In Wellington 58 patients have waited longer than six months for heart surgery, but the situation in Christchurch is even worse with 83 patients waiting longer than six months."

Dr Scott said the medical profession was very concerned about this issue but was bullied by the Government into not speaking out. "We know that health professionals feel intimidated by the Government about speaking out. This is how the Government tries to keep bad stories under wraps.

"Patients on waiting lists are also frightened to raise concerns for fear of being pushed further down the list but I encourage them to tell us their stories so that we can get some action on this issue," Dr Scott said.


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