Why I quit - cancer doctor

01:43, Jan 31 2009
WHY: Child cancer specialist Dr Liz Hesketh quit Wellington Hospital last year because she felt inadequate resourcing was putting patients at risk.

A highly regarded child cancer specialist who quit Wellington Hospital last year says she walked away because she felt inadequate resourcing was putting patients at risk.

Speaking publicly for the first time since leaving last July, Liz Hesketh said she had been forced to work with "continually dwindling resources and a unit moving towards unsafe clinical practice".

Dr Hesketh's departure forced the hospital's oncology unit to close its doors to new patients because it could no longer guarantee clinical safety. That resulted in children being sent to other clinics in Auckland and Christchurch.

Dr Hesketh was followed by colleague Anne Mitchell, who left in January. Since then a paediatrician has been running the service with support from Christchurch. Two new oncologists, Christian Kratz and Mwe Mwe Chao, arrive from Germany on October 12.

Dr Hesketh said the decision to quit Wellington was "very hard" and praised her former workmates at the hospital. But she said that, without adequate resources, they struggled to provide a first-world standard of care.

The number of "reportable events" involving child cancer patients at Wellington Hospital more than doubled in the first half of last year as the unit struggled with the rash of resignations.

Figures record 36 such events - which included administrative delays, staffing problems and medication errors or "near misses" - between April and June. In the first three months of the year there were 14. None had resulted in serious harm to patients.

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