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.