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Patients take back seat to media management

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman

19 February 2008

Patients take back seat to media management

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall is appalled that Labour is putting media management ahead of patient safety as it holds back a damning report detailing a series of major failures at the country's public hospitals.

“What has been described as a ‘frightening array of serious medical mishaps and preventable deaths in hospitals’ was supposed to be released in full on Wednesday. But fearful of parliamentary scrutiny, Labour has shifted the release time to Thursday to limit parliamentary attention until after the recess.

“The Labour spin machine has also dribbled a series of strategic leaks, clearly designed to ‘condition’ the media and the public ahead of the release of this information.

“Under pressure, we understand they will eventually release a league table that lists the number of ‘sentinel’ events over the past few years - by DHB and as a percentage of patients treated.

‘Sentinel events’ are very serious hospital events that require further investigation, such as an event which has resulted in an unanticipated death or major permanent loss of function.

“To avoid facing the stark truth, the Ministry will argue that the definitions used by each DHB vary and that this information is not comparable.

“The Government is terrified about the release of this information, particularly following the Health and Disability Commissioner last week saying that public hospitals were ‘unacceptably unsafe’.

“Patients are asking how come the Government is spending $5 billion a year extra on health, but our public hospitals are being declared ‘unsafe’?

“This latest compilation of DHB information has been available for some weeks but its release is now getting intensive treatment from the Beehive emergency spin department.

“Had Labour supported real doctors the way it employs its spin doctors, this mess would not have happened. This behaviour is unfair to the vast majority of doctors and nurses in our health service who are not involved in these cases.”

Mr Ryall says when public safety takes second place to a Minister who is trying to avoid embarrassment, it is time for a change in leadership.

Late last year it was revealed that over a two year period 23 Capital and Coast DHB patients were victims of serious and sentinel events. Sixteen died. Investigations found factors ranged from equipment failure to treatment delays.


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