Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Capital Coast: Not just a die-while-you-wait health system

Following the death of a one-day old baby after her and her mother were released from Wellington hospital just six hours after giving birth, details have now been released under the Official Information Act showing that up to one in eight patients at Wellington's hospitals "is the victim of a medical accident, error or mishap," and up to twenty-three patients of Wellington's Capital Coast Health were either killed or endured serious harm through inattention, incompetence and bungling.

Radio NZ story here. Dom Post story here.

The information describes the standard of care at Capital Coast Health as "a shambles." An independent November audit stated that "crisis management was the normal operating environment at Wellington Hospital." And all while government spending on the government's health system has rocketed. The answer is clearly not more of our money.

The reaction to these revelations suggests the answers won't be forthcoming from the administrators and senior clinicians of Wellington's Capital Coast Health either, nor from apologists for the state's die-while-you-wait health system, all of whom seem to consider this an acceptable level of failure. A "shambles" is apparently all we should expect from state health care.

I agree with them. That is all we can expect.

CCH apologists argue that "these problems occur everywhere," and of course they do: they occur everywhere the state attempts to handle the lion's share of a country's health care.

In Britain, for example, studies suggest these serious or "sentinel" events as they're called regularly affect up to one in ten patients, and that this figure is normal for a bureaucratically driven state-run hospital system. One in ten. Think about what that means for a moment. It's a level of incompetence that is life threatening for one in every ten patients that enter the portals of a government-run hospital.

Think about that next time it's you or a loved one entering that hospital.

Frighteningly, this is a level of failure -- of failure that leads to death -- that state health apologists consider acceptable. Indeed, if the representatives of the Wellington's Health Board are to be believed the very worst part about the release of this information of incompetence, bungling,and inattention being released is that it might "discourage clinicians" being open in remedying future problems.

But there's no evidence that there's ever been any motivation to remedy future problems -- indeed, the more excuses for failure we hear, the more it's clear just how much failure has come to be accepted as normal. The apologies and excuses offer no comfort at all that any motivation even exists to rememdy the bungling that killed twenty-three people, and will go on killing up to one in ten patients who enter state care.

It's not just a die-while you wait system. These figures show there are good odds you'll die if you get there as well.

Perhaps that's why fifty-six percent of New Zealanders surveyed told the Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey that the country's creaking health system needs "fundamental change." This isn't time to sit around and make excuses. It's not time to simply change the administrators and keep the same failed system. It's time for radical action.


  1. "...discourage clinicians" being open in remedying future problems."
    So, according to this bureautoad the problems are down to the clinicians.
    What a slimy way to weasel out of taking responsibility.

  2. According to Newstalk ZB yesterday afternoon, public health spending has increased by 50% since 2000.

    So much for the usual bleat of 'underfunding'. They're running out of excuses. No wonder the clinicians are now in the firing line ...

    Definition of insanity again, anyone?

  3. Actually this system operates exactly as it should. It is democratic. It is egalitarian. It is 100% succeeding brilliantly at giving a lot of commissars, administrators, gauleiters, bureaucrats and associated petty vermin something to do & somewhere to be. It grows and grows. Like a malignant tumour it kills patients, but that is its nature. that's what it does.

    Of course the solution is to privatise all of the so-called health system. The trouble with that approach is that while it'd solve the problems for the patients, it'd be a disaster for the administrators, civil servants and associated administrators. Also the people of NZ would NEVER voluntarily vote for such a thing. They want exactly what they have got, even if they do moan about it a little.

    As Menken said, "Democracy is when the people get what they want- good and hard."



  4. That Commonwealth Report is quite a compliment to our health system. Did you read the bit at the start where is says that the US spends twice what other countries spend yet people in the US are more likely to report medical errors, forgo care due to costs involved, and say that the healthcare system needs to be rebuilt completely?

    Public Healthcare trumps Private.

  5. Jordan

    ..and who wrote the report? With funding from where exactly?

    You wrote, "Public Healthcare trumps Private." Sure it does, if you're a bureaucrat. Too bad if you're sick!


  6. God no, LGM: not privatisation! That's not fair!

    Quick: nationalise the supermarkets! We can all queue up for our rationed food just like we wait - and wait - and wait - for our rationed healthcare.

    Care? Fair?? Guess you'd say it is if you're the damn bureaucrat with the clipboard.

  7. I've never posted on a blog before, but I can't believe what Jordan wrote:

    "Public Healthcare trumps Private", citing the USA as an example.

    US healthcare is nothing like private: there are some private aspects as there are here, but the Govt spends $6000/person/year on healhcare. If it was private, this would be zero.

    More important is the morality of public and private healthcare. Public healthcare comes from money taken by force or the threat of force - that is wrong.

  8. Sus

    Yup and how about this; the gauleiter who just resigned after 8 years in charge was on more than NZ$400,000 salary. Goodness knows what the perks and bosuses were on top of that. That's how a public health system realy operates! Exactly as it's supposed to do. Jordan better not get seriously sick any time soon.


    BTW, was it 23 "accidental" deaths in one year? Well, all the civil servant needs to consider is this calculation:-

    $400,000 > 23


  9. lgm, hope you don't mind, I put part of your comment up over at my place, under a post on the same subject.

  10. KG

    You are welcome.

    BTW where is your site? What is the link so I can find it?


  11. Thanks lgm.


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