DHBs must act on patient safety risks – Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

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The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) says the inadequate treatment of urology patients in Southern District Health Board is distressing and should serve as a broad reminder to DHB management to listen when specialists raise concerns.

The DHB has been forced to apologise to four urology patients after a scathing report from the Health and Disability Commissioner: https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/health/urology-complaint-led-verbal-counter-assault

It says many patients waited with no treatment and at least two patients believe their cancers have spread as a result. The HDC received 38 complaints about the urology service since 2016.

ASMS Executive Director Ian Powell says medical specialists regularly raised concerns about waiting times and the lack of capacity within the service, but they fell on deaf ears. “While it is good that patients have received an apology, so should the hospital specialists who raised serious patient for many years but who were ignored and sometimes criticised.”

“We currently have a dire shortage of all types of specialists across DHBs. Nationally the shortfall is estimated at around 24% and specialists are sounding alarm bells about unacceptable patient waiting times and huge workloads.

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Recently 80 senior doctors at Palmerston North Hospital warned of a crisis arising from delays in building new facilities and said they were dealing with an emergency department designed for 17,00 presentations a year, but which had seen almost 48,000 in the past year. https://www.asms.org.nz/news/asms-news/2019/10/10/doctors-patience-wearing-thin-as-hospitals-at-breaking-point/

“Hospital specialists raising concerns over risks to patient safety is the responsible thing to do. But equally so it is the responsibility of their health bosses to act promptly when they do so in order to address them rather than turn a blind eye until tragedies occur.”

“Until such time as DHB bosses take these concerns more seriously, these sorts of tragedies are going to get worse. Maybe it is time to consider a new crime of corporate manslaughter in the health system?”