30 Jul 2018

Waikato DHB told to improve recruitment and complaints processes

8:15 pm on 30 July 2018

A health watchdog report shows it took a colleague threatening to resign before the Waikato District Health Board took action to stop an overseas-trained orthopaedic surgeon working at its hospital.

Waikato Hospital

Waikato Hospital Photo: Supplied / Waikato DHB / Facebook

Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) Anthony Hill said in a report released today that Waikato District Health Board breached peoples' rights by not making sure the doctor was fit to practice here.

The surgeon, referred to in the report as Dr B, began working at the DHB in early 2012, despite overseas references mentioning concerns with their "demeanour and personality" and citing "communication difficulties".

In September of 2012, the DHB got the first of six complaints from patients. One came after a patient needed additional surgery after being treated by Dr B - although no performance issues were identified in relation to this complaint.

However, in June 2014 Dr B's supervisor reported the orthopaedic surgeon was meeting or exceeding standards in all areas.

The report said that in February 2015, a colleague of Dr B's threatened to resign if his concerns with the surgeon were not dealt with, an extension to Dr B's contract was then cancelled.

Dr B has since left New Zealand and has not replied to numerous requests from the HDC for a response.

The report said the Waikato board had failed in its duty of care to provide services with "reasonable care and skill" and did not have appropriate recruitment or complaints management systems.

The DHB has an obligation to ensure its clinical staff are "competent", the HDC said.

"This was evidenced by its lack of care in how it employed the orthopaedic surgeon, most notable for failing to secure a recent reference, and failing to have in place adequate systems to identify an emerging pattern of concerns, and to enable the appropriate staff to be aware of, and ultimately respond to, that emerging pattern," the report said.

Mr Hill recommended the DHB improve recruitment, supervision, performance management and complaints management processes.

The DHB said it accepted the commissioner's findings, and was committed to addressing the "obvious deficiencies" identified.