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Two Independent Inquiries Already Underway

3 November 2000

Health Minister Annette King says no evidence has been provided to her to justify the call by Green Party MP Sue Bradford for a full and independent inquiry into the treatment given to Northland women by gynaecologist Graham Parry.

"I am not sure what sort of inquiry Ms Bradford wants, but I presume she means something like the Gisborne cervical screening inquiry.

"The Government has been discussing this issue constructively for some weeks, and Ms Bradford seems to have just caught up with it. There are two independent inquiries going on, one by the Medical Council and another by the Health and Disability Commissioner, and I cannot see what another inquiry would achieve, or what I could ask it to do. Both are independent organisations, and both have complaints they are investigating.

"And on September 22 Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle and I announced a review of legislation, institutions and processes for dealing with adverse medical events. That review was specifically designed to learn the lessons from the Northland situation, and from any others. It will involve interviews with the people concerned.

"Today I have announced that that review will be carried out by Helen Cull QC, who has considerable expertise in medical and health care. She will report back to me by December 18. It is vital we get the systems and processes right to protect New Zealanders."

Mrs King said the Medical Council of New Zealand was carrying out an independent complaints process. "It has set up a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) to hear all complaints as quickly as possible. The council has asked the CAC to meet the women complainants over several days in Whangarei.

"The CAC process involves fact-finding and considering statements by the women and Dr Parry. It is intended to be a low-level forum where complainants may air their grievances freely and the council believes that to escalate this to a legal forum would be more intimidating for the complainants."

Mrs King said the CAC would have the assistance of an independent legal assessor to advise on points of law, procedure or evidence. The Medical Council would pay the costs of the CAC and the legal assessor.

"If the CAC determines that a charge should be laid with the Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal then an independent lawyer is appointed to prosecute the charge on behalf of the CAC and the complainants, The Medical Council meets all the costs of this investigation and the prosecution of the charge. A complainant does not have to pay to bring a complaint to the Medical Council's attention."

Mrs King said it was possible Ms Bradford was unaware of the extent of the two independent inquiries and of the independent review.

Ends

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