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MedicAlert: more complaints coming out

News release

MedicAlert: more complaints coming out – St John in the spot light.

MedicAlert Foundation says the death of Eunice Richardson may have opened a Pandora’s Box of complaints about various DHBs and St John, which have been ignoring MedicAlert bracelets and potentially exposing health consumers to harm.

“An authentic MedicAlert Service Supported Medical ID, included within both World Health and World Allergy Organisation Prevention Protocols is one of very few clinically trusted and practical tools available to help health consumers protect themselves from systematic health system failures, as occurred in Canterbury DHB and resulted in the death of Eunice Richardson,” Murray Lord says.

“Failing to respect a health consumer’s rights by ignoring their potentially lifesaving information on an authentic MedicAlert Service Supported Medical ID shows utter contempt for that health consumer’s health, welfare and safety,” said Mr Lord.

MedicAlert recently sent to St John a very serious complaint which related to St John paramedics ignoring a four-year-old child’s MedicAlert bracelet.

The child has a life-threatening condition called Reflex Anoxic Seizures. Her heart can stop when she has a shock or trauma to the body, ie. physical pain where she has hurt herself. In such a case she may urgently require CPR from a by-stander until an ambulance arrives. Fortunately the child’s parent was on hand when she had an incident in which the 111 Communications Centre and Paramedic ignored the MedicAlert bracelet, however she starts school in one year and her life could depend entirely on her MedicAlert bracelet.

Concerned health practitioners signed-off the child’s MedicAlert enrolment to help protect her from this very risk. MedicAlert has since received an apology from St John and the ambulance provider has contacted the family involved directly to apologise.

MedicAlert has also asked St John for a copy of the National Ambulatory Standards for Paramedic Training and a copy of St John’s policy for correct utilisation of the MedicAlert Service Supported Medical IDs.

“We are keen to see they have proper procedures in place,” Mr Lord said.

However, no information has been forthcoming. As the largest ambulance service provider in New Zealand, this raises a very serious red flag for MedicAlert and should also be a concern to health consumers across the country.

“This matter requires further independent investigation, to dig out the truth.”

MedicAlert has been pushing for a Health Select Committee investigation into such matters. The Foundation say it is a serious concern that senior management or directors, who may not necessarily be clinically trained, may be signing off on health provider policies and practices which may be silent on correct use of MedicAlert’s Service System and thereby create a situation where health consumers are exposed to avoidable risks.

“Delayed ambulance response, diagnosis and treatment in cases such as this can cause death or permanent harm that has an impact on the remaining life of both the individual and their family.

“The risk of misdiagnosis in this case is one where a common seizure is suspected based on a witnesses call to 111, when in fact based on the health consumer’s known medical risks (hidden to the caller), heart failure is a matter for a more urgent paramedic response and advice to the caller to prevent harm.”

MedicAlert Foundation have considerable experience in handling health consumer’s medical information for the purposes of medical alerting. Many risks exist in New Zealand which can impede the accuracy and completeness of shared health information. Health consumer engagement with, and moderation of, their ‘at risk’ health information is very important and forms part of the daily routine of the Foundation’s operations.

MedicAlert provided St John direct secure electronic access to its nationwide and international medical alerting technology over three years ago, following the Christchurch earthquakes and has recently discovered St John has not been reliably using it.

It appears St John allowed their government-funded 111 Emergency Communications Centre staff to ignore MedicAlert Medical ID numbers given over the phone during 111 calls and may have permitted trained clinical help desk staff in the Centre to also fail to use the system.

“For some time MedicAlert has also been trying to finalise agreements with St John for ongoing use of the electronic medical alerting system, but since the recent senior management change at St John this has stalled,” Mr Lord said.

“Unless this can be remedied MedicAlert will need to turn off St John’s access to the System, resulting in St John paramedics having to call the Wellington 111 Emergency Ambulance Communications Centre to check for vital health consumer information.

“If this is how senior management in government-funded health provider organisations in New Zealand think we deliver an efficient reliable system, using the latest technologies, the New Zealand government and Ministry of Health need to add a requirement for correct use of the MedicAlert Service System to all health provider contracts, in the best interests of health consumer safety.”

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