North Metropolitan Health Service report finds failure to recognise issues may have contributed to 13 patient deaths


Professor Bryant Stokes, chair of the North Metropolitan Health Service board.
Professor Bryant Stokes, chair of the North Metropolitan Health Service board.

THIRTEEN patients passed away and 32 suffered serious harm in the last year due to healthcare received from the North Metropolitan Health Service (NMHS), the board’s first report has revealed.

Board chair Professor Bryant Stokes said there were a number of unexpected suicides from mental health patients, and other cases were a failure to recognise significant co-morbidities.

“It’s often ignoring what a patient is saying, and that’s why the voice of the patient is so, so important,” he said.

“People tend to want to hide behind things, but things go wrong, there’s no question about that.

“Every time we have an issue like this, we do learn from it and put processes in place to hopefully stop it happening again.”

ProfStokes said reports were previously done centrally in the health department and wrapped up information from across Perth.

“For the first time, there’s been acknowledgement of some complications that have arisen during patient treatment in our service,” he said.

The NMHS manages services including Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Graylands Hospital, Osborne Park Hospital, Joondalup Health Campus, the state dental service, and Pathwest, the state’s public pathology provider.

In the NMHS report, issues within the emergency departments are apparent; while category five patients are seen in the recommended time and category one patients are close to 100 per cent on target, categories two to four are falling behind.

Prof Stokes said the NMHS is altering the way patients are triaged to tighten up the process.

“The other thing that’s occurring is staff are getting confronted all the time by violence; it’s a worry with people on drugs,” he said.

“Their strength is extraordinary, and that’s adding to stopping a department running smoothly.”

Prof Stokes said a key aim of the board moving forward is looking at how to provide services closer to where people live in conjunction with GPs, as well as focusing on preventative care and supporting urgent care clinics.

“What the board is concerned about is the fact that we’re at the bottom of a big area (Nedlands) that spreads to north of Joondalup,” he said.

“Our outpatient services are down here, and people have to come wandering down, particularly elderly people.

“People think health is all hospitals, it shouldn’t be; hospitals are only a component of the delivery of healthcare.”

The NMHS board has identified its top priorities over the next five years as patient safety and quality care, fiscal responsibility, safety and wellbeing of staff, community engagement, and capital works, including maintenance of current buildings.

The board is holding a public meeting to exchange thoughts, ideas and questions with their community.

All are invited to attend the inaugural public board meeting on Friday, December 1, from 11am to 2pm.

The meeting takes place at FJ Clarke Lecture Theatre at the QEII Medical Centre in Nedlands.

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