The union representing resident doctors says mistakes are ‘inevitable’ given current doctor workloads
A Stuff report said a man who died in hospital could have been saved had a doctor, overwhelmed by a busy night shift, not forgotten to review an X-ray.
It says Trevor Bourke, 69, checked himself into North Shore hospital after experiencing ongoing dull chest pain. By 11.30am the next day (26/5/13) he was dead from a tear in his aorta. Senior registrar Dr Aik Haw Tan failed to review the X-ray that could have helped diagnose the tear because the hospital had been very busy that evening.
Now the NZ Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA) national secretary, Dr Deborah Powell, says it’s ‘worried about the safety level of patients — and mistakes are inevitable in the present working environment.’
Dr Powell says: “We continues to work with District Health Boards (DHBs) to identify and address the safety challenges it faces. Some positive progress has been achieved since Mr Bourke’s death, and further improvements are in the pipeline.
“But both the workloads and the hours resident doctors continue to be asked to work is high. Mistakes are bound to happen if doctors are overworked and
tired. It is inevitable that patients will suffer in such circumstances.”
Dr Powell says the case outlined today demonstrates the needless tragedy that can be suffered by families involved.
“But my heart also goes out to Dr Tan,” Dr Powell says. “Here we have a doctor working through the night and he’s rushed off his feet, with 75 per cent more than the usual number of patient admissions to get through.
“When Dr Tan saw Mr Bourke, his symptoms mwere very vague and certainly not suggestive of something as serious as an aortic tear. The conditions were stacked against him. Now one of hispatients has died. It’s a tragedy for all involved.”
Dr Powell says the reality is that cases like this are just symptoms of a wider problem within New Zealand hospitals.
“Tragedies like this will continue to occur unless the issue of shortages and proper resourcing are addressed.
The story of Mr Bourke’s death came just days after it was revealed the Auckland DHB plans to cut staff costs due to a $12 million budget deficit.