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Independent Oversight Of Our Health System Is Now Crucial

Petition for Patient Safety Commissioner in Aotearoa, New Zealand launched today.

“Too many people have been harmed or have died due to intractable systemic failures that have not been properly addressed for decades,” say the co-founders of the Health Consumer Advocacy Alliance (HCAA). “Harm in healthcare is not being identified and properly monitored and independent scrutiny is needed now more than ever. Things MUST change.”

Unsafe staffing levels, overwhelmed hospitals, and the inability of all of our health entities to identify, mitigate and properly monitor harm, means safety cannot be assured.

Through a Parliamentary petition (link), the HCAA are requesting that a fully resourced, independent PSC is appointed to focus on preventing consumer harm in the health system. The HCAA are not proposing more of the same, because what we have now is not working. “Our petition is about challenging the status quo in order to protect New Zealanders.”

The actions taken by our health entities to address system inadequacies are not effective and harm is ongoing because of this. “We need transparency and independent scrutiny to ensure those protecting us are being held to account. A PSC would focus on our systems as a whole, and analyse both the structure of the health system and the harm/adverse event/medical injury reporting systems, and safety systems to ensure improvement in the way in which harm in health care is reported and acted upon.”

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“The PSC would hold a mirror up to the healthcare system and act promptly when there is evidence of health care treatment and outcomes that fail to either promote or to deliver against patient safety principles that actually matter to patients,” says HCAA.

It is the independence and ability to scrutinise the system without being restricted by the Government of the day, that is important and what is needed now.

The restructure of our health system combined with rapid, across-the-board cut-backs, and axing of jobs behind the scenes, has put massive pressure on our already over-burdened, overwhelmed and understaffed system.

In 2023, HCAA released a risk of harm report (https://tinyurl.com/rpsx2dx5) that found major deficiencies in the health system and the way that medical and healthcare harm is identified, reported, monitored and addressed.

The HDC’s main focus is harm after the event, as is ACC and the Medical Council. The Ministry of Health/Government have limited powers over the private sector to enforce change when needed. While the HQSC undertake work to improve the patient experience and amplify the consumer voice, they lack independence.

It is apparent that the best way to truly protect New Zealanders from avoidable, preventable harm in health care is to establish an independent Patient Safety Commissioner with the sole function of making sure our health system is as safe as it can be.

Countless statements have been made about our economy being in crisis, but we can’t afford to carry on as we are. We must properly commit to preventing the harm that is experienced by New Zealanders every day in the course of health care and treatment.

“If it is not safe it is not care!”

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