By Lucy Bennett
A Southland woman whose daughter died of ovarian cancer after nine GPs failed to diagnose the disease has made an emotional plea to MPs for doctors to be more accountable.
Margaret Dynes’ daughter Susan McEwan died at the age of 44 in 2014 after a battle with cancer. The Air New Zealand flight attendant had visited 10 GPs over four years to try to find out what was causing her acute pain and discomfort. It was the 10th, an intern, who finally discovered she had ovarian cancer. By that stage, McEwan’s cancer had progressed to stage three and she died two years later.
Dynes, who launched a petition last year calling for the creation of an independent health oversight body, much like the Education Review Office, spoke on her petition to the Health
Select Committee today.
“There has been a huge groundswell of agreement with this petition as a course of action and you now all have the power to affect real change for the betterment of all New Zealanders,” Dynes told the committee.
“The health review office would ensure that general practitioners are regularly and independently monitored and accountable.
“We should all be leaping up and down and demanding better service and expertise from our general practitioners, who are the first line of defence and hold the power for further and correct testing.”
Dynes became emotional as she spoke about GPs who failed their patients but who were able to continue in their profession without censure.
“Negligence and incompetence is just accepted in New Zealand health. There are really good practitioners but my daughter never met them, not till the very last one, who was an intern.”
McEwan suffered back pain, extreme tiredness, abdominal and pelvic pain, and bloating for four years before her diagnosis. Doctors repeatedly told her to go home and rest. She was eventually sent for tests when the female intern recognised the symptoms, Dynes said.
Select committee chairwoman Louisa Wall told Dynes the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Amendment Bill, which would be discussed immediately following her appearance, would address some of her concerns.
“Everything you’ve just talked about is actually included in that bill. That bill is going to make sure that the Medical Council of New Zealand is reviewed within three years and then every five years. That bill is going to ensure that you, as a member of the public, can actually complain to the Medical Council about individual GPs and they will have to be responsive to members of the public actually questioning the competence of GPs,” Wall said.
Currently, doctors and other medical practitioners are overseen by the Medical Council, which registers doctors, and monitors standards, conduct and competence. However, complaints are referred to the Health and Disability Commission which then investigates.
Dynes did complain to the Health and Disability Commission but it was not upheld.
Source: NZ Herald