Despite denials, poor service plagues our health system

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From Middlemore to Waikato, Hospitals need attention 

Venkat Raman –

New Zealand’s public health system, which was once the pride of the developed world, is clearly ailing. Politicians says that funding cuts have eroded the quality of service delivery but the ruling National Party government denies the charge.

Charge discounted

National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi described the claims health funding being cut as ‘incorrect’ and that funding has in fact increased.

“Health spending is up to a record $16.1 billion, an increase of $4.3 billion under this government. We invested an additional $2.2 billion on health in our 2016 Budget,” he said, writing in this issue (Page 5).

“Primary care funding has increased by $230 million over the past eight years, and by over $25 million in Budget 2016,” Mr Bakshi added.

Declining quality

Indian Newslink has spoken to a number of officials, patients who have used our primary and secondary care facilities and those who live with them and all of them agreed that the quality of our health services has taken a hit in recent years.

Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital is perhaps a prime example of poor patient care, wrong diagnosis and worse, wrong treatment.

We are privy to several lapses, some of them serious enough to warrant huge compensation. However, the focus of this article is Hamilton, where we have heard some ‘horror stories.’

A young Indian woman, who recently delivered her second child – a daughter – compared the services that she experienced in delivering her first child (a son) in India about four years ago. She said that maternity care in New Zealand was ‘scandalous.’

“The midwives do not seem to know anything. They asked me to go to pharmacies and ask for the medicines that I should take. I was in great pain at the Labour Ward and yet the midwife attending on me said that I was not due to deliver for another few days. However, I delivered in less than two hours. There could have been complications but I was fortunate. I would not recommend anyone to use the service here,” she said.

Official refutes

Waikato Hospital Services Executive Director Brett Paradine refuted the allegations of inadequate care and staffing at Waikato Hospital, saying that the facility provides safe care for thousands of patients every year.

“Waikato Hospital is a busy tertiary hospital and we have a strong focus on maintaining and improving the quality of the services that we provide,” he said.

Mr Paradine said that the Hospital is regularly audited against the requirements of the Health and Disability Services Standards required of a New Zealand health and disability service provider.

The audits are carried out by an independent auditing agency designated under the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001 for submission to the Ministry of Health.

We also have an ongoing cycle of Maternity Quality and Safety Plans, to ensure ongoing improvement of our maternity services,” he said.

“In our Women’s Service the postnatal ward is staffed by a mix of Registered Midwives and Registered Nurses. During daytime, six midwives or nurses provide care for up to 20 patients, and overnight, four nurses or midwives care for up to 20 patients. The delivery suite consists of seven birthing rooms. Typically, every woman in the delivery suite will have a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife providing care. In addition to this, the Hospital employs five or six core midwives (depending on the time of day) within the delivery suite,” Mr Paradine said.

Costly mistakes

But Hamilton Labour MP Sue Moroney does not agree.

She said that health services in Hamilton have suffered in recent years, due to under-funding from the government.

“I get regular complaints from people who are in terrible pain, but have been told that they are not bad enough to have the surgery they desperately need. Women’s health is a particular area of concern, where cost-cutting has led to maternity units being closed in towns like Morrinsville and Te Awamutu,” she said.

Ms Moroney said that there has been a sharp increase in treatment injuries – that is where people are injured by mistakes made with their health care.

“This increase in mistakes is a sure sign of stress in our health services due to under-funding. Hamiltonians deserve better,” she said.

Trained Midwives

However, Mr Paradine says that all New Zealand-trained midwives have extensive pharmacology education as part of their four-year degree and overseas midwives are required to complete specific pharmacology education prior to receiving a full New Zealand practising certificate.

“All midwives with full practising certificates can prescribe medication for women under their care. Midwives only prescribe for a pregnancy-related condition, and will not prescribe to treat any other health problems,” he said.

Patient contends

According to Mr Paradine, all patients on the antenatal and postnatal wards are seen by a doctor at least daily. Midwives or nurses are also able to call the ‘acute’ consultant or registrar where there are concerns about a patient on the ward.

But the young mother who spoke to us said there was no such care.

“No doctor visited me when I was in the Ward. The midwife I had chosen did not follow the antenatal and postnatal procedures. Since I had delivered my son earlier, I was aware of what should be done. I was scared,” she said.

Member of Parliament and Labour Party Health Spokesman David Clark would not comment in any detail on the claims about midwife’s care but said that the problem in the Waikato is linked to the $1.7 billion hole in Health funding identified by research firm Infometrics.

“Twelve of of our 22 DHBs are in a deepening financial mess with a predicted national deficit of $70.2 million. The number of DHBs in deficit have increased from 8 last year. This means that the Waikato DHB is under pressure and has not been able to make the nurse vacancy savings it has promised. The midwife area is stressed as it is 22 fulltime midwives short. The DHB was also stripped of its training accreditation for obstetrics and gynecology in 2015 and is unable to train junior doctors. Labour will gradually restore the lost $1.7 billion in funding taken out of the sector over the past six years and make sure the people of Waikato get the care they deserve,” he said.

Mr Paradine said that following birth, all babies are examined by the attending midwife. Where the baby required a neonatologist present at birth, the baby examination will be undertaken by the attending doctor, he said.

“In the postnatal period babies are under the care of midwives who are trained to provide care to the mother and her new born baby. In a situation where a baby is not thriving or becomes unwell, they are referred to a pediatrician,” he said.

It is obvious that our public health system leaves much to be desired.

We hope that someone in the National government or some Member of Parliament would take up the problems and find solutions.

Mere denial would not suffice.

Please read related story ‘Healthcare in Hamilton worrying’ on the main homepage and our Editorial ‘Trust must return to Public Health System’ under Viewlink.

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