A little while ago the New Zealand Listener published an article about hospitals using the types of tools than could be purchased from hardware stores.
“Low standards and budget pressures” in New Zealand’s hospitals have been found to be “driving surgeons and sterile services to break the rules and put patients at risk.”
The practice is supposed to be illegal, however necessity is the mother of invention – and when a hospital is strapped for cash what else is it supposed to do?
The story is now available on-line and you can read it here.
Loss of Skills and Knowledge
Here are some tweets from the journalist who wrote the article. Note the comment about there being a “loss of skills and knowledge” that resulted in unsafe practices:
…some district health boards (DHBs), in an attempt to cut costs, have been substituting inferior hardware-store equivalents for surgical-grade medical instruments. Technicians in sterile-services departments around the country have leaked documents and photos to the Listener showing that home-grade tools have been used in place of medical devices in surgery, sidestepping regulations and potentially endangering patients. Hospitals are also failing to list medical devices on an official database that keeps track of them in case of product recalls or safety concerns.
Meanwhile, there have been many instances of single-use devices being sterilised and reused contrary to manufacturers’ specifications. And some DHBs have been using instruments made in-house that were found to be inadequate.
One technician from a lower North Island hospital says hardware-store items can be reused, but the substandard metals often can’t withstand the rigours of a sterilisation process that can reach 134°C. “I have seen several of these items that, after one wash, had rusted terribly or had paint chipping off. I’m sure no patient wants to be operated on with items like that.”… read on
New Zealand often boast about having one of the cheapest health systems in the world.
Every year there are hundreds of avoidable deaths in the country’s hospitals. For example, in 2013 Eunice Richardson, 80, died after she was given Trimethoprim, a bacteriostatic antibiotic for a urinary tract infection when she was recovering from hip surgery. She was wearing a MedicAlert bracelet warning about her severe reaction to Trimethoprim, and each page of her documentation bore a large orange sticker warning about her allergy. “She was very particular about it and making sure that every doctor knew about it,” her husband Laurie Richardson said. She lost 60% of her skin to massive swollen blisters and died in pain in her husbands arms. Her death prompted nothing more than an apology from the Canterbury District Health board chief executive David Meates. source
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
What a shame that the New Zealand government can’t see that under-funding (which we’ve been writing about for years at E2NZ.org) has resulted in it also being a third-world system, and that patient health, safety and wellbeing is being compromised as a result.
Understandably, there is also a reluctance to release data on hospital morbidity, in the past investigative journalists have had to use the Official Information Act to get the data …
“Several hundred lives would be saved each year if some of New Zealand’s highest public hospital death rates were brought down to those of the better-performing district health boards.
A Herald investigation has found that the Waikato District Health Board has had among the highest in-hospital “standardised” mortality rates in recent years.
In a five-year period, it had the highest rate for three years…
..Figures comparing hospital death rates are routinely available to the public in Britain and Canada, and Australia has endorsed using this kind of information as an indicator of healthcare quality and safety.
In New Zealand, the details have not been readily available, and the five-year figures for the Herald investigation were obtained from the ministry under the Official Information Act.” source
You may think that New Zealand’s health care has many similarities to that found in a third world country. We wouldn’t disagree with that.
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