This isn’t what Te Whatu Ora Comms teams should be doing

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Doctor accuses Te Whatu Ora of ‘conspiracy’ to avoid public scrutiny of unsafe radiology practices

A senior doctor has accused Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand of a “conspiracy” to avoid publicly disclosing unsafe radiology practices that harmed multiple patients, the Herald can reveal.

In an extraordinary step, Dr Bryan Wolf, a consultant radiologist in Hawke’s Bay, has asked the Ombudsman to investigate what he describes as the national health authority’s failure to inform the public about significant safety risks in the radiology service where he is a senior medical officer.

The Herald has obtained two letters Wolf sent to Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier in July in which he alleged that Te Whatu Ora withheld important information despite his insistence it be made public and questioned its commitment to accountability.

“I believe this can now reasonably be labelled a conspiracy to defraud the general public of their knowledge and health,” he wrote in one of the letters, which have not previously been reported.

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Late last year, Wolf alerted Te Whatu Ora’s board and national leadership to problems he alleged put patients and employees at risk of “permanent, life-altering physical, emotional, psychological, cultural and professional harm”, according to his letters to the Ombudsman.

In response, Te Whatu Ora commissioned a review of Hawke’s Bay’s radiology department which was completed in April. According to people who have seen their report, the reviewers found long-standing flaws in systems and a culture that endangered patients and left staff feeling isolated and helpless.

At the centre was an IT system so defective that radiology reports were not delivered to doctors who requested them and clinicians were forced to adopt risky workarounds.

The review raises wider questions about the quality of patient care, staffing levels, technology systems, governance and accountability in hospitals at a time when New Zealand’s health sector is under enormous strain, one of the sources said.

But the report was not made public after it was completed, and Te Whatu Ora refused to release it when a journalist at RNZ requested the document under the Official Information Act in May, on the grounds that disclosure would identify a whistleblower – Wolf.

Wolf was infuriated by the decision not to release the report. In one of his letters to the Ombudsman, he said he made it clear to the reviewers and Te Whatu Ora executives that he wanted the public to know about the safety issues and did not expect his identity to be protected.

Misusing the laws to deny releasing a damning report by pretending to ‘protect’ the whistleblower is just jaw dropping in its audacity.

How on earth can Te Whatu Ora pretend to be protecting the whistleblower when the whistleblower has been publicly demanding this investigation?

This isn’t what Te Whatu Ora Comms teams should be doing.

This is outrageous.

 

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Heard last night on the radio that this same Health Dept has 154 Comms staff. Jesus Wept! Why do they need that many – why not 20 of these ‘silver-tongued devils’ and 130 extra nurses? Once again this govt spending money in all the wrong places. Bring on the post-election ‘mangling’ of our public sector – it is past time.

  2. Disgrace alright. The Dr making the disclosure knew they’d play that bullshit game and thought he’d headed it off. Wrong!

    Apart from Te Whatu Ora’s leading edge dysfunction, there is also an entrenched pattern of government departments burying shit and pretending the OIA does not apply if it is even vaguely politically embarrassing that has been a hallmark of this and Arderns government. And while I thought Keys government was bad in this area, they’ve been shown up as boys by these professionals!

    Anyway, where’s those surgical waiting list stats, guys? Oh that’s right, they’ve been buried until after the election. Now why is that?

    • Hallmark of Ardern’s government? It’s the hallmark of any government. Key did it, I am sure Clark’s government did too. They all talk about transparency until they get in power and then find that’s incredibly inconvenient. The additional tragedy is some muppets will start saying it’s something to do with getting rid of DHBs. The same DHBs that casually oversaw hospitals like Middlemore falling apart around them and doing not much about it.

  3. This is our most transparent government ever what are you on about – leadership from the very top to all department heads. But people want them back in so I guess “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got.”

    • Right but the fact that they campaigned on being transparent and succeeded very much implies the mob before were very much the opposite of transparent.

  4. After 6 years of this government, you’re actually surprised by this Martyn?? This is what Jacinda learned in Tony Blair’s office – it’s all about manipulating public perceptions. It’s “New Labour Downunder”!

    Yet another reason to party-vote ACT.

  5. This is precisely why the Te Whatu Ora Act has absolutely zero data publishing requirements in it – it’s designed to keep a lid on a collapsing system. Sure, you can complain to the Ombudsman, but they have no real power, when the health law itself doesn’t require the publication of data.

  6. Martyn – The current CEO of Te Whatu Ora, was the previous CEO of the Counties – Manukau Health Board, the worse performing Health Board in NZ…why was she promoted?

    • What does worst performing mean? Health outcomes? Serving one of the largest areas of people that have the worst health outcomes due to a shit load of factors might make you on a hiding to nothing.

  7. Ask Chippy,he will give you answer that doesn’t mean anything,it’s his area expertise.
    Define woman.

Comments are closed.