Govt failing to deliver on surgical mesh promises

Photo: Stuff

National’s Associate Health spokesperson Maggie Barry says the Labour-led Government is failing to deliver on a promise to address issues surrounding surgical mesh.

“When Labour was in Opposition, they were ferocious about the urgency of this issue and the need to set up a register, as well as investing in research and data collection,” says Maggie.

“Yet at the Health estimates hearing this week it was very apparent the Minister had very little idea and had delegated the issue to a junior Minister outside Cabinet, while Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield stepped in and could not offer any new information.

“Dr Clark claims there is urgency on the issue but this is not apparent. More than a year and a half since taking office this Government is not fulfilling the lofty promises it made and mesh groups are describing the attitude as a kick in the guts.”

Surgical mesh is a medical device that is used when repairing weakened structures with the aim of providing additional support. It can be absorbable or non-absorbable. Non-absorbable mesh will remain in the body indefinitely so should be considered a permanent implant.

Surgical mesh is widely used for hernia repair. It is also used in urogynaecological surgery, including in the treatment of stress urinary incontinence. Surgical mesh was previously used for repair of pelvic organ prolapse – POP - but since regulatory action was taken in December 2017 no surgical mesh products have been supplied for POP in New Zealand.

While many people who have mesh inserted experience no complications, a number do. Some experience complications immediately after their operation, while for others they develop years later. Complications may range from mild to debilitating and can have physical impacts and affect an individual’s quality of life.

On November 29 2018, the Ministry of Health opened a survey to hear from those impacted by surgical mesh whether they would be like the opportunity to tell their story, and if so, how they could be supported to do so. This survey closed on January 18 2019 with 423 submissions received.

 “All the Minister seems to have done is write letters to the DHBs asking for their co-operation in compiling information at a local level," says Maggie. "Even the easiest step to take, which would be to establish a code for surgical mesh products, has not been implemented.

“The numbers stack up as well, with a Deloitte study last year showing the benefits would far outweigh the cost.

“National has committed to setting up a comprehensive retrospective register of all women and men who have surgical mesh implanted and the brand of mesh used in these operations. Australia, England and Scotland have already implemented this measure so there’s no reason for New Zealand to be falling behind.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government talk about wellbeing, but if that’s the case then this should be a matter of urgency for those women and men suffering from the effects of failed mesh surgeries.”

The Ministry of Health website provides information for those who have had surgical mesh implanted: “If you have implanted surgical mesh and it causes pain, or you have concerns, contact the surgeon who implanted the mesh. Alternatively, you can contact your GP if you would like to be referred to another specialist in the use of surgical mesh”.

Consumers and health professionals are urged to report any adverse events experienced in relation to the use of surgical mesh to Medsafe. Further information, including reporting forms, is available on the Medsafe website



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