Waikato District Health Board recognises it is very important that the right of the consumer to make a complaint is understood, respected, and upheld.
“All feedback from patients and their families, including complaints represents an opportunity for us to learn and improve our systems,” says director quality and patient safety Mo Neville.
“We are particularly active in seeking feedback, whether positive or negative, and encourage comments on what we could do better.
“Unfortunately sometimes things can go wrong, humans make errors (even experts) and our systems and processes are not always robust enough to prevent an error occurring; therefore it is important that when something does go wrong we investigate and take action to strengthen the processes to prevent another similar event that may cause harm to a patient. It is also important to be transparent and keep patients and families informed about what we are doing.”
Complaints from patients and their families come in through a variety of sources, through email, talking to a manager or charge nurse, filling in a complaints form, talking to the media and also through other agencies like the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) whose role is promoting and protecting the rights of patients and families.
It is always a concern for the chief executive of Waikato DHB when the experience of a service user causes them to think a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner is necessary. That said, the Waikato DHB HDC complaint rate is comparable with other DHBs and has not moved significantly over the last few years.
Currently the DHB has 33 complaints with the HDC that it is working through. The nature of complaints range from unacceptable time to wait for an appointment, delayed or wrong diagnosis, clinical treatment did not have expected outcome, coordination of treatment/care including discharge planning, staff attitude and behaviour, and communication.
“There is already a lot of excellent work in progress to improve the safety and quality of care for patients and their families. Our ability to respond to internal complaints and HDC complaints in a timely way, and with the purpose of learning and improving is vital,” says Ms Neville.
“I am committed to making sure the lessons we have learned are embedded in our organisation.”
Examples of actions resulting from complaints that we have received.
- New visiting policy allowing flexible and extended visiting hours for patients’ nominated key support person. [Woman complained that she was unable to have support person present for induction of labour]
- New guidelines for informing patients of instructions for cessation of medication prior to surgery [patient confusion as to whether to cease certain medications prior to surgery]
- New systems and audit processes regarding the management of electronic results. [patient’s tumour was not acted upon due to a number of systems failures]
- Development of Professional development package for reflection on the impact on family of patient with a complex health journey [Lack of effective management of patient’s needs which were highly complex]
- Updated remote access to computer systems for doctors working in remote (to Waikato Hospital) sites so that patient information can be updated in real time, and thus immediately usable [Patient’s weight was not updated – so appropriate calculation of chemotherapy dosage was not made]