24 Nov 2016

No ban on Waikato patient follow-ups - DHB

12:34 pm on 24 November 2016

Waikato District Health Board is disputing claims orthopaedic surgeons have been told not to do follow-up appointments with patients at Waikato Hospital until further notice.

Thirteen surgeons wrote to the DHB in September saying the directive was made so they would see more new patients, with the aim of meeting health targets and safeguard funding.

Waikato Hospital

Waikato Hospital Photo: Waikato DHB / Facebook

The letter said the instruction from management was given to reception staff in the orthopaedic clinic and not discussed with surgeons,

The orthopaedic specialists said the halt on follow-ups was dangerous and constituted an unacceptable, unilateral change in a critical function of the clinics. It was a cynical denial of patients' rights to medical care, in order that management may continue to pretend that Waikato Hospital is achieving more than it is, their letter said.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said while there were often tensions between clinicians and management in any hospital, it was very rare for specialists to put their names to such a letter.

"It would have taken a lot for them to put that together.

"The issue for them is that they are making a clinical judgement and in terms of patient safety it is better to focus on these follow-ups and they are being told no.

"You cannot have people who are not responsible for the care of patients make decisions about the treatment of patients and the prioritisation of patients safety - that has to be left with the specialists."

Waikato Hospital director of services Brett Paradine said the claim of not allowing follow-up appointments could not be further from the truth.

"What we have been trying to do is balance the three things our surgeons need to be doing, which is seeing newly referred patients - referred from GPs - doing surgery, and doing follow-ups.

"And actually we do far more follow-ups than we do first specialist assessments.

"That has and continues to be the case throughout."

Mr Paradine said the the letter from the orthopaedic surgeons was a reflection of a miscommunication which was unfortunately taken out of context.

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