New Zealand’s ‘World Class Health System” Falling Apart?

NZ health sector is underfunded and under resourced

New Zealand’s health sector is under funded and under resourced

New Zealand is presented often as having a ‘world class’ health system, however it is underfunded and understaffed, with some regions suffering from a severe lack of medical specialists.

By April 2015, according to the World Health Organisation, New Zealand health system ranked 41st in the world, behind Singapore at 6th, the UK at 18th, Australia at 32nd, the USA on 37th place & Cuba at 39th. Every year there are hundreds of avoidable deaths in the country’s hospitals.

Many Kiwi patients say their health system is not held accountable when things go wrong. For example. Lynne McKay’s life was ruined for years by multiple hip replacements that left her in agony. “What really hurts” the former registered nurse said “is that our health system still fails to hold anyone responsible.” source

You may have noticed there’s been a flurry of health related stories in the NZ press in recent days, all of them telling of an avoidable tragedy or medical let- down. View them separately and its easy to miss the underlying message, group them together and it should set alarm bells ringing. New Zealand’s health system is anything but world class.

Here are some of the more recent health related stories published in the New Zealand press.

First, there is he awful tragedy that struck Kris Harding and Stacey Barrell. Their baby daughter Charlotte died when she was just 10 hours old. The couple say staff at Palmerson North Hospital didn’t listen to their concerns and their repeated request for a C section. Kris had problems with natural births in the past and knew she’d need a C section this time round:

“While we were in that room, I probably said ‘c-section’ about a hundred times,” Harding said. Eventually they were able to book the c-section, but that was then cancelled by their doctor.

Harding said the doctor had told him he had not read Barrell’s notes and was unaware of her medical history. The couple said they felt there were failings by hospital staff.

Harding said he asked the staff “why didn’t you listen to me when I said c-section? You know her history.” He said he was told they did not read her historysource

A pharmacy failure appears to have been responsible for the next incident. A woman was left with horrific burns after the wrong concentration of acid was used in a colposcopy procedure following an abnormal pap smear result.

She went to Wellington’s Wakefield Specialist Centre on March 20 for a colposcopy after an abnormal smear test but the acetic acid used in the procedure should have been diluted to 5 per cent but was instead 100 per cent concentration. It caused severe internal burns.

Newton Mall Pharmacy labelled the acid and is investigating what went wrong. Three days after the incident the woman received a letter from the pharmacy, which apologised for the bungle

For the next three months the 21-year-old had to visit the hospital for treatment to the severe burn, spending an estimated $1500-$2000 on medical bills. The woman said she had also endured immense stress.

The 21 year old woman was offered a $50 fuel voucher as compensation for her injury and fears that she may never be able to have children.

Celebrity chef, Ross Burden, died after he contracted Legionnaires Disease while in Auckland Hospital. Furthermore, there was a delay in diagnosing his disease, despite a child contracting it a year earlier.

Chief coroner Deborah Marshall’s report on Burden’s death last year reveals that the Auckland District Health Board did not properly implement recommendations after another Legionella scare a year earlier.

Burden’s birth mother, Jude Harwood, is furious, believing her son died because of hospital neglect.

She is upset that there was a delay in diagnosing Legionella given that a child in Starship also contracted the disease a year earlier, and believes staff involved in his care should have been sacked.

“Ross’ family and numerous friends in the UK and New Zealand have been left absolutely devastated,” she said.

Marshall found that Burden, 45, a former MasterChef judge, died on July 17 last year of hospital acquired Legionella pneumonia, having picked up the infection while in hospital for a bone marrow transplant to treat cancer… source

MidCentral District Health Board is on performance watch after a poor financial result after it predicted multi-million dollar surplus somehow turned into a multi-million dollar deficit. Most of the overspend went on outsourcing:

The reason for the financial flip was not a lack of revenue – MidCentral banked $1.1m more than it thought it would – but rather increased spending.

There was $4.3m more spent on outsourcing than expected, and the clinical supplies budget was out by $2.3m.

While the Southland District Health Board was sacked earlier this year after forecasting massive deficits, there was no suggestion the same action would be taken at MidCentral, the spokesman said.

An elderly woman suffered eye damage after her right eye was operated on by a senior trainee surgeon, rather than his fully qualified supervisor.

During the procedure, the trainee inadvertently touched a soft-tipped, diamond-studded instrument called a “tano scraper” onto the retina. The supervising specialist ophthalmologist said the action took less than a second and occurred too quickly for him to prevent it. He took over from the trainee and completed the surgery…

…the trainee – who is no longer practising in New Zealand – breached the code of patients’ rights by not informing the woman of any increased risks from having such delicate surgery done by a trainee, leaving her unable to give informed consent.

He made an explanation to the woman as she was leaving the operating theatre and recorded the adverse event in a discharge summary, but Mr Hill said he failed to record it adequately and did not disclose it to the woman or her GP appropriately… source

72 year old Palmerston North man Ian Sutherland was told to take the bus home from Wellington Hospital after suffering a heart attack. Initially he was admitted to Palmerston North Hospital on 15 August but transferred to Wellington for an angiogram. When the procedure was finished, staff told him to get the bus home, and to buy clothes from a charity shop as he was wearing pyjamas. He had no money:

He said there had been no discussion about how he would get back home. “The return journey was never in the melting pot.”

It was then suggested by a hospital staff member that Sutherland take the two-hour bus journey home. “She says ‘the bus leaves at 2 o’clock’. She said ‘it’ll be $24’.” When he was discharged, all he had with him was what he was wearing – pyjamas, slippers and a dressing gown.

Sutherland said it was then suggested that he buy “clothes suitable to ride the bus” from an op shop.

Sutherland did not have any money nor any credit cards on him to purchase clothes or a ticket. “She said ‘is there anybody in Wellington who could loan you the money’? “I told her, ‘I will not be asking anyone for the money’.”… source

Mr Sutherland said there was a lack of funding in the health sector, and as a result patients were treated poorly, he said “it is the epitome of pure arrogance towards welfare”.

72 year old Patsy Panther had a similar experience to Mr Sutherland. She suffered the latest in a series of strokes on 30 August 2015 and was admitted to Whangarei Hospital and transferred to the stroke unit. The stroke left her with minimal mobility and could only walk with great difficulty. However, she was considered ‘fit’ when discharged and told to take the bus home – wearing only her dressing gown and nightdress. source

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6 thoughts on “New Zealand’s ‘World Class Health System” Falling Apart?

  1. New Zealand’s Health System is by far the worst, my mum was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was told she would be put on medication that will be expensive and she could also be on the waiting list for 5+ years by the Hutt Hospital for surgery, I simply took her to Boulcott Hospital which is a Private Practice next to Lower Hutt Hospital and when me and my mum saw the doctor, I was told if my mum was to go private, she would have to pay $25,000+ and I have ever since encouraged her that if my mum or dad retires, they should move back to Hong Kong as most houses in New Zealand are not fit for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and over in Hong Kong, my mum has a choice on which hospital to see for her rheumatoid arthritis and the waiting time is less.

    Moral of the story

    If you intend to come to New Zealand or even immigrate here, the health system here is much worse than the US, Australia or even Asia health systems, most homes in New Zealand are not very friendly to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers mainly the winter months.

    Hope this could be published to the blog to warn anyone with health problems like arthritis and etc that New Zealand’s health system is not a very good health system at all

    • Patea woman fears for mental health services in Taranaki
      Last updated 18:42, August 4 2015

      A Patea woman with mental health issues says she was told to toughen up by a care worker and believes her life was put in jeopardy for the sake of saving money.

      Lisa Boutin was taken to Taranaki’s Pathways care centre in early January.

      She spent the night with the care centre team, an organisation Boutin says did a fantastic job.

      However, she said the next day a key care worker, from the Taranaki District Health Board, visited her and unleashed a barrage of belittling comments, dismissive remarks around a loss of her companion dog, and in essence told her to toughen up.

      Formal complaints about Boutin’s treatment have been sent to both the TDHB and Health and Disability Commission.

      Boutin, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and PTSD, said her experience has led to questions about whether budget constraints influenced the level of care she received.

      “I can’t see any other reason for treating me like that,” she said.

      Boutin alleged the “key worker” then attempted to coerce her into withdrawing from the mental health services and denied her a chance to talk with a doctor, an advocate or get a second opinion.

      “I repeatedly stated that I was incapable of making a decision and she continued to apply pressure.

      “I feel she was disrespectful of my attempt to follow the common protocol of attempted suicide survivors to seek psychiatric support in times of crisis by belittling me, my crisis, and my loss.”

      Supported by her brother-in-law, Robert Wall, Boutin said while her story was difficult to tell, the public needed to know.

      Wall, a Hawaii certified peer specialist who flew into New Zealand specifically to help, said he was flabbergasted by Boutin’s treatment.

      “Were I not here I feel her life would be in jeopardy,” he said.

      “She has ongoing, life-threatening, clinically diagnosed medical problems.”

      Wall said Boutin was recognised as disabled, not only by New Zealand, but by her former home countries of Australia and the United States of America.

      He said as a tax and ratepayer, she was entitled to the care she needed and not to be fobbed off.

      Taranaki District Health Board spokeswoman Wendy Langlands said although she couldn’t comment on the case specifically, all clinical staff employed by, or contracted to, the DHB Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) had the relevant qualifications and experience for their roles.

      “These staff are also required to attend compulsory training which covers a broad range of skills required to provide patient-focussed mental health and addiction services,” she said.

      “We are confident that Taranaki DHB’s MHAS, provides safe and thorough care for all patients within the allocated funding.

      “Taranaki DHB’s Specialist Mental Health and Addiction services remain committed to the provision of quality and timely services across the Taranaki region.”

      Langlands said patients or family members are encourage to contact their customer services office if they have any concerns about the treatment they received.

      • I love the TDHB’s “boiler plate” denial. ” provides safe and thorough care for all patients within the allocated funding.” Classic blame shifting, “wasn’t me”. Until that rugby guy came out about depression [rampant] and mental health, “harden up” was about the only [and appears as though it still is the preferred] method prescribed to people having problems.
        Depression [from living in this place] so deep, suicide is a real problem.

      • She would have been able to go much further with her complaint,
        if she had recorded the entire exchange.
        Come on people, at the very least (now) 8GB USB recorders are under NZD40 …
        with the ability to record ~300 hours.
        Again, I’m getting the feeling on the one hand they’re upset … but on the other hand they’re scared about complaining … or it could even be … they don’t know how to file a formal complaint. Wonders of education and consumer awareness, indeed.

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