'Hospital is safe'

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 08:00 21/11/2012

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People concerned about doctors treating them at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim have been asking whether they should still go ahead with surgery.

Several patients have contacted the Marlborough Express, worried about the care they might receive after confirmation that a doctor at the hospital is being investigated as part of a coroner's inquiry into a patient death.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board did not respond to questions yesterday, but board chief executive John Peters gave an assurance last week that the board was confident of the care it provided at the hospital.

He gave a similar assurance in a letter sent to all hospital staff.

Yesterday, the board provided the Express with a copy of the letter sent to staff after publicity about a police investigation into a death at the hospital requested by the coroner. A doctor involved was stood down on full pay after the death of a patient in May.

The letter says the employment of locums to fill in for the doctor meant the hospital could maintain the care of patients.

"I believe the quality of service in Wairau Hospital to be of a good standard and have always considered that patient safety has the highest priority with staff."

However, Mr Peters said the board was not exempt from statutory obligations, including processes being followed by the coroner's investigation, which limited what the board could say.

Those processes also meant information about the case could not be discussed in public, he said. For this reason, staff should not talk to the media or post anything on social media sites that could get in the way of a just outcome.

The board was taking the time to decide what information could be released under the Official Information Act and whether this could jeopardise the investigation, he said.

It was working through the process laid out by the coroner's investigation, the Medical Council and the Health and Disability Commission.

Mr Peters asked staff to contact him if they had any concerns.

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- The Marlborough Express

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