Southern patient complaints up but no horror story, Menzies says

A near doubling of patient complaints to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) is not a "shock horror story", Southern District Health Board deputy chairman Paul Menzies says.

Speaking as hospital advisory committee chairman at its meeting yesterday in Invercargill, Mr Menzies said he was pleased the media seemed to better understand that numbers of complaints did not necessarily indicate a problem.

Increased reporting and complaining were part of a heightened awareness that helped improve the quality of health services, he said.

Chief medical officer Dr David Tulloch said staff often advised those who were unhappy with their treatment to complain to HDC, even when they felt they had done everything correctly for the person.

Most complaints were resolved at a "low level", he said.

A report to the committee shows the 25 HDC complaints about Southern DHB in the first six months of the year were nearly double the 13 of the same period last year.

It was only three fewer than for all of 2011, and five fewer than all of 2010.

At nearly 98 per 100,000 discharges, Southern's complaint rate was higher than the national rate of nearly 81 per 100,000 discharges.

Complaints about Southern staff members' attitude or manner had increased, and were greater than any previous reported period.

However, complaints about diagnosis, and inadequate treatment, were down.

The commissioner closed 21 complaints related to Southern in the first half of the year. Only one investigation was launched, but it was later discontinued.

The rest of the complaints were resolved by other means.



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