Treatment issues feature in patient complaint list

Waikato patients are not happy with treatment from their family doctor and the public hospital system, complaints made to the Health and Disability Commissioner show.

Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show that from August 2010 to July 2012, 362 separate health providers were complained about in the wider Waikato region, including the Thames Valley and King Country.

The complaints ranged from delays in treatment to a surgeon trying to take the gall bladder out of a patient from whom he had removed it 13 years earlier.

Of the 362 complaints, 214 were against group providers such as medical centres and hospitals. The rest, 148, were made against individual registered and unregistered providers.

While only four complaints were formally investigated in the period, general practitioners were the top of the list for the most complaints against individual medical practitioners, with 37 complaints.

Dentists were next with 20 complaints, followed by physicians (10), orthopaedic surgeons and midwives (9 complaints each), nurses (6) and psychiatrists (5).

A category called other (which includes acupuncturists and naturopaths) received 52 complaints.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners chief executive Helen Morgan-Banda said GPs were at the forefront of primary medicine and saw, on average, more patients than other medical practitioners. There were also more GPs than any other single speciality in the country.

"Unfortunately complaints against general practitioners occur from time to time," a spokeswoman said. "The Medical Council of New Zealand and the Health and Disability Commissioner [HDC] have systems in place to deal with these complaints."

The region's public hospitals received the most complaints for a group provider with 104, followed by medical centres (25), rest homes (21) and accident and emergency clinics (7).

Waikato DHB were unable to respond to a request for comment by deadline yesterday, but one of the four complaints highlighted by the HDC during the period involved a Waikato Hospital surgeon trying to take out a gall bladder from a woman for whom he had done the procedure 13 years earlier.

During surgery he initially believed he had removed a shrunken gall bladder, only to realise that a major duct injury had occurred. The woman was transferred to another hospital where corrective surgery was performed.

The commissioner's annual report for 2011 shows treatment was the primary issue in half of all complaints received.

Complaints about delays in service, diagnosis, the adequacy and appropriateness of treatment, complications and unexpected outcomes, co-ordination of care, and referrals to other services were the most common.

Nationally the number of complaints investigated have reduced from 109 in 2008/09 to 27 in the year 2010/11, despite roughly the same amount of complaints being made - 1378 and 1355 respectively.

Waikato Times