Mistakes by doctors are inevitable in the current working environment, says the union representing New Zealand’s resident doctors.
Recently, a man died in an Auckland hospital from a tear in his aorta after the doctor overlooked an X-Ray. According to the coroner’s report, Trevor Bourke, 69, could have been saved had the doctor at the North Shore Hospital not forgotten to review his X-ray.
Trevor arrived at the hospital with chest pain on 25 May 2013. He passed away the next day.
Dr Aik Haw Tan, overwhelmed by a busy night shift, failed to review the X-ray that could have led to the diagnosis of the tear.
The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) national secretary Dr Deborah Powell is concerned with the safety level of patients.
“Both the workloads and the hours resident doctors continue to be asked to work is high. Mistakes are bound to happen if doctors are overworked and tired. It is inevitable that patients will suffer in such circumstances.”
“My heart also goes out to Dr Tan,” Deborah says. “Here we have a doctor working through the night and he’s rushed off his feet with 75 per cent more than the usual number of patient admissions to get through.
“When Dr Tan saw Mr Bourke, his symptoms were very vague and certainly not suggestive of something as serious as an aortic tear. The conditions were stacked against him. Now one of his patients has died. It’s a tragedy for all involved.”
Deborah says the reality is that cases like this are just symptoms of the wider problem within New Zealand hospitals.
“Tragedies like this will continue to occur unless the issue of shortages and proper resourcing are addressed.
The Auckland district health board plans to cut staff costs due to a $12 million budget deficit.
In addition to physical and emotional loss suffered by patients, medical errors are also costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in payouts by the country’s health welfare provider – Accident Compensation Commission (ACC).
ACC paid as much as $7.6 million in 2011 to victims of treatment injuries – missed or delayed diagnoses, medication errors and erroneous surgery.
Two people who topped the list ended up as paraplegics after medical treatment have received more than $200,000 each in compensation.
ACC paid $7.6 million to 3600 people for treatment injuries in 2011, with further 1200 claims to be processed.