The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) was warned it
could be ''losing sight of the bigger picture'' in its dealings
with a patient whose biopsy specimen had been mixed up with
An August 27 letter from Ministry of Health chief medical
officer Dr Don Mackie to SDHB chief executive Carole Heatly
has been released by the ministry under the Official
The woman had had a false negative biopsy result. The other
affected patient went on to have an unnecessary mastectomy
because of the specimen mix-up.
Dr Mackie was leading a national investigation into pathology
blunders which included the Dunedin case. The SDHB carried
out an internal investigation into the Dunedin case. The
specimen mix-up occurred at Southern Community Laboratories
(SCL), but the investigation also examined DHB processes. In
the letter, Dr Mackie said the woman felt a ''loss of
relationship'' with the DHB and SCL.
Dr Mackie acknowledged SCL had sent the woman a letter
expressing regret, and had offered her a meeting. The DHB was
withholding an apology and formal response until its
investigation had concluded, which ''may still be some time
''I am concerned that the DHB may be losing sight of the
bigger picture - the need for the woman affected by the
biopsy error to have her relationships with the DHB and the
laboratory restored and to be kept informed.
''My intent in writing to you is to encourage the DHB,
perhaps through the involvement of a member from its
executive leadership team, to meet with this woman and her
family for as long as it takes to allow the woman to be heard
and for her to find a measure of resolution."
In response, Ms.Heatly forwarded Dr Mackie an email she sent
patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea.
She asked Mr. O'Shea to follow Dr Mackie's recommendation,
saying ''this is big stuff and especially in that it has
triggered a letter from the country's CMO, to express concern
on how we have handled this''.
Yesterday, patient services medical director Dick Bunton said
he could not answer questions about the matter because of
However, asked if the board's processes to deal with
complaining patients were lacking, he said no.
Asked if the board had changed the way it dealt with patient
complaints, he said no.