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West Coast DHB inquiry exposes regional crisis

Tony Ryall MP National Party Health Spokesman

15 June 2008

West Coast DHB inquiry exposes regional crisis

The Government's investigation into the West Coast DHB exposes the crisis in our regional hospitals, says National's Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

On Friday, the Government released the results of 'an external review of an internal investigation' into the concerns of a whistleblower, the former Grey Hospital anaesthetist, Dr Judy Forbes. The review was led by the Health Minister's medical advisor, Dr David Galler.

"Beneath the soothing words, this review clearly shows that the health workforce crisis is putting intolerable pressure on the standard of care in regional hospitals," says Mr Ryall.

"It names 'basic services' as being at risk."

Translated into plain English, what this report says is:

* The whistleblower was right. * The new computerised booking system is a managerial disaster, and they still don't know if any patients were harmed. * The West Coast DHB is struggling to deliver because of chronic staff shortages. * Quality care is threatened by an ever-changing workforce of locums. * The DHB is still not co-operating well with neighbouring hospitals.

"New Zealanders should be concerned at what's happening on the West Coast, because it is happening around the rest of the country.

"The report shines the spotlight on problems of recruiting and retaining staff in regional hospitals. It specifically warns about the pressure being felt in 'basic services' like paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics, general surgery and anaesthesia.

"National says the solution lies in the development of regional clinical networks. As detailed in our health discussion paper, there is strong evidence from Australia and elsewhere that such collaboration improves services particularly in regional areas.

"It is amazing that the army of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health has not recognised the problems on the West Coast sufficiently to ensure adequate co-operation with neighbouring hospitals. Nor have they with other regional DHBs that have the same problems.

"Despite the Government being in denial, the health workforce is in real crisis. Over nine years, all Labour has offered is 43 workforce reports and endless committees. The state of regional hospital services illustrates that neglect."

ENDS

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