Friday, January 25, 2008

Doctor Knows Best… But Is The Government Listening?

The story of Vanessa Anderson is not only a sad one, but it is the final straw that seems to have broken the New South Wales Government’s resistance to the idea that something is wrong in the health system. Vanessa died at Royal North Shore Hospital after being given an excessively high dose of painkillers for her fractured skull, an injury which she sustained when struck by a golf ball. The coroner reported that “almost every conceivable error was detected, and those errors continued to build one on top of the other.”

The Premier has responded by calling a Special Commission of Inquiry to examine the entire health system. Critics are still calling for a Royal Commission which they say would have wider powers and a broader brief. Either way, the real question is not what any such enquiry will find, but when will the government finally accept that they are the problem.

The indications have been present for a long time that the current administrative structure is failing to deliver the standard of care that we should be entitled to expect. It has been equally clear for a long time that our medical professionals know what the problems are and know what’s needed to address those problems. Dr. Tony Joseph from Royal North Shore has repeatedly claimed that the bureaucrats and the politicians simply aren’t listening to what they are being told by front line doctors and nurses.

This is the fundamental nature of the problem. Our society has been contaminated by an economic philosophy which promotes a management culture where those who know how to deliver a service are at the mercy of mangers and administrators who have little or no expertise in anything other than sitting at a desk. The result is that the people who have the responsibility of actually doing the work are simply told what they will be given rather than asked what they need.

It’s time to put the horse back in front of the cart.

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