The Listener on our health system crisis

Written By: - Date published: 2:58 pm, August 7th, 2017 - 17 comments
Categories: class war, health - Tags: , , ,

A major piece by Jessica McAllen in The Listener out today. Here’s a summary from The Herald:

Hardware store tools used in surgeries

Cash-strapped hospitals are using equipment from hardware stores in operations, putting patients at risk, a Listener investigation has found.

Leaked documents and photos reveal some district health boards have been using inferior hardware store versions of expensive surgical-grade equipment.

In other cases single-use devices are reused and other equipment is modified.

The Listener article said tools such as vice grips cost about $50 from a hardware store but $800 if bought through medical companies.

A technician from a lower North Island hospital said cheaper tools were being damaged during the sterilisation process.

“I have seen several of these items that, after one wash, had rusted terribly or had paint chipping off,” the technician told the Listener.

“I’m sure no patient wants to be operated on with items like that.”

In documents released under the Official Information Act it was revealed in the past two years DHBs have identified hundreds of non-surgical-grade items and removed them from operating theatres.

These included rusty vice grips, retractors (used for holding open incisions) that were potentially carrying human tissue from patient to patient and modified equipment.

Other incidents included a saw purchased from Mitre 10 and used until the end of 2015 and $100 bolt cutters from Bunnings Warehouse used to cut plates and rods in orthopaedic surgery. …

(Nice cover to the right of The Listener in that one!)

17 comments on “The Listener on our health system crisis”

  1. Such things as this are the result of the massive underfunding that National has engaged in so as to be able to afford tax cuts that only benefit the rich.

    • ropata 1.1

      Yep, puritan Bill English has imposed austerity by stealth on the people of NZ while spending up on roads & subsidies for his mates (landbankers and farmers)

    • AB 1.2

      Not only underfunding, but a refusal to engage in effective disease prevention programmes whenever such programmes might interrupt the flow of profits to business. e.g. sugary drinks and obesity

  2. Sacha 2

    “Here’s a summary from The Herald”

    As Jess notes, they’ve ripped most of her Listener story before it was even available to non-subscibers to buy. Let’s not reward that lack of journalistic ethics at Granny with our clicks.

    • weka 2.1

      True, but on the other hand where is The Listener content these days and why is it so hard to find? This article will be on Noted in a week or so.

      McAllen also kindly pointed out that one can access it online via public libraries if one has a card. Haven’t had time to look yet.

  3. weka 3

    Can’t wait for this to make it into the Guardian.

  4. DH 4

    Ouch, makes me wince looking the pictures of the tools. I’d have thought surely they’d try and buy stainless tools, standard steel is obviously not suitable for that kind of work.

    How does procurement work with the health boards? Do they all do their own buying or is there a central purchasing agency who does bulk-buying?

    Hard to see how the suppliers can get away with charging $800 for a pair of vice grips if the buyers know their stuff. An engineering shop in NZ could make them for way less than that.

    • Hard to see how the suppliers can get away with charging $800 for a pair of vice grips if the buyers know their stuff. An engineering shop in NZ could make them for way less than that.

      That would, to a large extent, depend upon the price of surgical stainless-steel and the ability to keep end prices down via economies of scale.

      • DH 4.1.1

        You’re only talking a kilo or two of surgical stainless Draco, which should be $25-30 max. The price is in the exclusiveness. It’s a simple enough tool, even custom manufacturing doesn’t cost that much.

  5. rhinocrates 5

    Just to pre-empt the trolls. A Green MP once proposed homeopathy as a treatment for Ebola – and was immediately demoted IIRC. On the other hand, Coleman remains a minister.

  6. Nic the NZer 6

    On the cost of healthcare. The Author did a talk in Wellington a few weeks ago.

  7. Whispering Kate 7

    I was on to this smartly last Friday on this site – we receive our Listener in the post and when I read the article I couldn’t believe my eyes. It surprises me that news like this is slow sometimes to be brought to the attention of readers. It is not that difficult to get hold of a Listener. There have been other occasions when I have “broke” news on this site, to have it passed over, and then lo and behold it comes out a few days later. Still I am pleased it has come to the attention of readers as it is a shameful indictment on our health system.

  8. Keepcalmcarryon 8

    Even various grades of Stainless steel can corrode.
    Flakey rust can obviously harbour bacteria, another risk of using different steel types is galvanic corrosion of implants( screws plates pins etc) if any fragments are left behind.
    Surgical instruments can be crazily expensive – it’s a bit like aeroplane parts, they attract an extra 0 on the end just by being called ” surgical”. They should be higher grade steel and reusable though.
    Have to feel for the surgeons having to ” innovate” as above, it would go against the grain I’m sure.

  9. Michael 9

    How does Labour expect its “promise” to “restore” health spending “over time” and “as conditions allow” to be taken seriously?

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