Te Whatu Ora Health NZ says it has “reset” its expectations with ambulance services after it was not informed National Party health spokesman Dr Shane Reti would visit emergency departments while an observer during several ride-alongs.
Between Waitangi Day and Easter, Reti - a practicing GP - says he went on 19 night shifts with ambulance crews to get a close-up look at our embattled after-hours acute medical services, the Herald reported last week.
“I wanted to see what the after-hours provision was like,” Reti said.
He said his experience confirmed his belief that the country’s acute medical system, and particularly hospital EDs, were reaching a critical point.
But Peter Alsop, chief of staff for the office of Te Whatu Ora’s chief executive, said the authority should have been told of visitors to emergency departments.
“Some providers of ambulance services have, with good intentions, hosted Members of Parliament to visits to some of our facilities, without informing us first,” Alsop said.
“It is important we are aware of visitors to the working parts of our facilities, in order to consider any impacts on patient care and any health, safety, security and integrity considerations. Te Whatu Ora also needs to properly inform staff, and to be able to brief visitors on expectations and protocols.”
Reti has said he adhered to the observer policies of Hato Hone St John and Wellington Free Ambulance.
Te Whatu Ora earlier told the Herald it could not confirm Reti had visited its EDs with the ambulance crews because it had not been informed he was coming.
It told the Herald last week it was “generally accepted practice” when an MP goes to one of its facilities that it is made aware of their plans, for safety and privacy reasons, and it has “reset expectations with providers” and is putting “clearer procedures in place” for future visits by politicians.
Alsop said Te Whatu Ora must also consider the interests of patients - many of whom will be compromised in their ability to share their views - when agreeing to other people observing their care.
“In the case of Members of Parliament, we must also consider additional expectations related to serving the government of the day and acting with integrity and political neutrality. It is a generally accepted practice that, if a MP wants to visit a public service facility, engagement with the agency’s chief executive or the responsible minister is first required.
“We have reset expectations with providers. We absolutely want an approach whereby discretionary visitors can, for good reasons, visit Te Whatu Ora facilities. This includes the important role of visits in building knowledge and awareness of how the health system works.”