By: Amy Wiggins

Carmel Berry is fighting for changes to the use of surgical mesh so more women are not left living in pain. Photo / File

The number of people who have laid claims with ACC for injuries caused by the use of surgical mesh has continued to climb despite problems with the product being well known, new figures show.

These figures come just a day before surgical mesh patients campaigning for restrictions on its use are to meet with the Ministry of Health over concerns around its use.

ACC figures showed 810 treatment injury claims relating to surgical mesh were made over the 12 fiscal years to June 30 this year. Of those, 640 claims were accepted and 170 declined.

The number of claims increased from 44 in 2007/08 to 85 in 2008/09 and 91 in 2009/10.The number of claims then dipped for two years and started increasing again in 2012/13. The claims count peaked in 2016/17 with more than 150.

ACC had already paid out $13.2 million for surgical-mesh related claims during that period.

As well as more people suffering injuries from the treatment, the rise could in part be explained by media coverage around the issue, the health select committee review and more awareness of treatment injuries, the ACC report stated.

In 2012, it was first revealed surgical mesh that had been the subject of lawsuits overseas was still being implanted in hundreds of New Zealanders. Its use has continued since then.

Medsafe acting group manager Derek Fitzgerald said the Ministry of Health’s position remained that the benefits of using mesh outweighed the risks if used by appropriately trained surgeons and in carefully selected patients.

But Carmel Berry, one of the founders of Mesh Down Under, has lived in pain ever since surgical mesh was used to repair a prolapsed uterus in 2004.

Ever since, she has been fighting to make sure other people are spared the agony she faces each day.

But despite an inquiry by the Health Select Committee which released its findings in August last year, Berry says not much has changed.

“Certainly nothing’s changed in terms of rising numbers of people making ACC claims for treatment injuries from surgical mesh,” she said.

On Friday Berry and other mesh patients will meet with representatives of the Ministry of Health, Medsafe and respective medical colleges to discuss the issues around its use.

Fitzgerald said the Ministry rejected claims little had been done to implement the recommendations.

The select committee made seven recommendations around the use of surgical mesh which included setting up a registry for the use of the product and complications with it; a review informed consent procedures around its use; ensuring the coding for mesh use in clinical notes was consistent; encouraging the use of the adverse events reporting system; ongoing education for surgeons on the use and removal of mesh; and expanding Medsafe’s role to assess the quality and safety of medical devices before they could be used in New Zealand.

The registry and making Medsafe responsible for assessing products would be addressed as part of the development of a new comprehensive regulatory regime to regulate therapeutic products in New Zealand which was currently being drafted, he said.

He said meetings had also been held with professional colleges to discuss training and changes to information given to patients, while coding had been discussed with health boards, and adverse event reporting forms had been simplified.

Berry said she was happy mesh was no longer the recommended treatment option for pelvic organ prolapse but was concerned the same issues would be found with synthetic midurethral slings, which were made of mesh and used in women with stress urinary incontinence, in a few years’ time.

One American study showed at least 15 per cent of women who had the procedure experienced a serious negative outcome.

Berry believed steps needed to be taken to make sure the risk was more clearly relayed to women so they could make an informed decision on whether to go ahead with the procedure or not.

The Ministry of Health had also asked district health boards to make sure mesh was recorded as part of the description in every surgery where it was used but Berry said that did not appear to be happening in many cases.

Data supplied to her by the Ministry of Health showed only 72 of the 204 sling procedures done between April and July had mesh recorded despite the fact it was a mesh treatment, she said.

“Not much has changed but things are getting worse. We don’t know if that’s because people are having more surgery with mesh or people are more aware about what the issues are and are speaking out on them.”

Source: NZ Herald

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