19/07/19 Bob Holden Saved: Processed folder July 21 Photo Kathy Forsyth

AN EASTERN Bay patient is grateful for the opportunity to have his say at a surgical mesh restorative justice forum but fears the meetings are a “whitewash”.

Whakatane man Bob Holden attended the surgical mesh restorative justice meetings in Auckland last week.

About 35 forums are being held around the country. They began in July and will run until the end of October.

Margareth Broodkoorn, chief nursing officer for the Ministry of Health, said the ministry was taking the forums very seriously and they were the start of a process to improve safety in the future.

Mr Holden has been in agony following a mesh implant for a hernia he suffered just over two years ago.

He said there about 40 people attended the two Auckland meetings he went to.

However, his concern was that the representatives from the Ministry of Health and ACC were token people.

“It is disheartening. All of us feel better to have vented ourselves but was it to the right people?” he said. “The ACC [representative] turned out to be a physiotherapist who was up there on ACC’s behalf.”

Mr Holden said the Ministry of Health sent a retired surgeon.

“It was like a whitewash straight away. Did they pull [the surgeon] out of retirement to go sit there and pay him a fantastic amount to listen to everyone whining?

“It was not the sort of thing that we expected. I don’t know if anything is going to come of it.”

The ministry’s Ms Broodkoorn said the forums were being facilitated by a team from the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington.

“The team will provide the ministry with a report before the end of 2019 that identifies the key themes and needs that come out of both the forums and stories shared by other mechanisms. People are also able to submit their story in writing and by audio or video,” she said.

Two senior Ministry of Health representatives attend each forum, including the chief medical officer Dr Andrew Simpson (a medical oncologist by training and while not currently practicing is not retired) and/or Ms Broodkoorn, a chief nursing officer.

“In response to a range of concerns being raised by attendees about their experiences with ACC, the Ministry also invited a senior representative from ACC to attend forums in Auckland last week. That was Dr Nick Kendall, ACC Treatment Injury manager, a practising clinical psychologist specialising in pain management and musculoskeletal medicine.”

Mr Holden said, like other surgical mesh patients, they wanted a few changes. One was for the Ministry of Health to ban the use of surgical mesh implants because of the complications it causes.

Another Whakatane women has been in pain for two decades following her mesh implant. She was unable to attend the forums because she cannot sit for long and the journey would be too difficult.

Mr Holden said another change they wanted was for ACC to listen and show more empathy and understanding towards mesh implant patients.

“We also want the surgeons to fill in the ACC forms.”

Mr Holden said he and other patients told of their difficulty in getting surgeons to fill in ACC forms attributing their pain to the mesh implants.

“One of the ladies at the meeting had to go through the same thing I had to go through to get the report from the surgeon. She felt a let down by everybody.”

Mr Holden said he had to go through the patient safety manager at Whakatane Hospital to get a report for ACC.

“I think the others all hope that something will come of [the forums] but the ministry … are not going to rush into anything.

“In the meantime, they are still going to carry on putting the mesh inside people because it is a quick and easy fix.”

Ms Broodkoorn said the forums were the first step in a much broader process to understand and respond to the needs of people harmed by mesh and improve patient safety in the future.

“The Ministry takes this process very seriously and greatly appreciates the time and effort of those who have attended and shared their stories.”

kathy.forsyth@thebeacon.co.nz