20 February 2008

The New Zealand health workforce needs to be appropriately supported to ensure serious and sentinel events are kept to a minimum, says the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA).

The NZMA today welcomed the release of a report showing that New Zealand's hospitals compare well with those overseas.

"While any event where a patient is harmed is deeply regretted, individual doctors and health practitioners working in the health system have enormous goodwill and are keen to do the best they can for patients," said NZMA Chairman Dr Peter Foley.

"Doctors and nurses are under so much pressure in our hospitals that they often can't spend enough time with patients to ensure that a quality service is achieved.

"The NZMA has long called on the Government for improvements to the medical workforce, which is already facing a crisis. The working environment in public hospitals can be difficult, and many staff are considering heading overseas where pay and conditions are often better.

"If we want to improve the outcomes for patients, it is essential that New Zealand hospitals have appropriately trained staff, in sufficient numbers, and that the health workforce is viable and well supported."

Dr Foley welcomed the Government's approach which has patient safety at its core, rather than the unhelpful 'name, blame and shame' approach which can create a climate of fear.

"Most serious and sentinel events are the result of systems errors, and it is vital to have a system where health practitioners are comfortable reporting and discussing how improvements can be made."