HDC Annual Report brings positive news
Tuesday 19 October 2004
The New Zealand Medical Association welcomes key statistics in the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Annual Report, which show a slight drop in complaints against health practitioners, a record low backlog of complaints, and significant decreases in the number of complaints requiring formal investigation or referral for disciplinary proceedings.
NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe said the NZMA welcomes the Health and Disability Commissioner’s stated emphasis on education and resolution, not retribution.
The NZMA also shares the Health and Disability Commissioner’s concerns about the trend toward “trial by media”.
“We acknowledge the open media in New Zealand, but with openness comes responsibilities,” said Dr Briscoe. “Of particular concern is the trend of naming a doctor when a complaint has only just been made, or sometimes before a complaint is made, in such way that implies the doctor’s guilt. Down the track, if the complaint is not upheld, or the doctor found not guilty of a disciplinary charge, this usually does not attract the same media attention. The effect of this sort of publicity on a doctor’s professional career can be huge, even when the doctor has been found to have done nothing wrong.”
Dr Briscoe said doctors can suffer great emotional stress when faced with a complaint, even if it is not upheld. The quicker the complaint can be fairly resolved, and everyone can move on, the better.
While General Practitioners were the health practitioner most often complained about, Dr Briscoe agreed with the Commissioner that this was not surprising considering the thousands of GP consultations every year.
The NZMA agrees that disciplinary proceedings should be carried out with transparency and accountability, and the question of name suppression is best left to the Court or Tribunal which has heard all the evidence.