13 Apr 2017

ACC aims to reduce costs from medical treatment injuries

8:51 am on 13 April 2017

ACC is forking out $45 million to reduce the high and rising cost of injuries related to medical treatment.

Last year just over 1 million people were treated and discharged from hospital. For the year, ACC accepted almost 8900 claims for hospital-related injuries, part of a 59 percent rise in claims over the past five years.

Medical treatment-related injuries cost ACC $418m last year alone. Its overall liability is estimated at $5 billion.

doctor generic hospital

Photo: 123RF

ACC chief customer officer Mike Tully said New Zealand was no worse than other countries in terms of harming patients, but could do better in reducing injuries.

"The investment that ACC's making over the next five years of some $45m, goes some way in terms of ensuring we can reduce the incidence and severity of the treatment injuries here in New Zealand."

Of the claims accepted last year, 5000 concerned treatment at public hospitals, such as infections following surgery, adverse reactions to drugs, wounds caused by pressure, and maternity problems including brain injuries in children close to birth.

Mr Tully said they would spend up to $45m over five years in a bid to reduce treatment injuries in key areas, including maternity care and birth.

"These are going to cover neonatal early warning systems, foetal surveillance training, cord lactate testing, and developing a biomarker antenatal testing."

Jenn Hooper, Action for Maternity, is part of a group set up by ACC to reduce severe brain birth injuries, or neonatal encephalopathy.

A child with neonatal encephalopathy could cost ACC $35-$55m over its lifetime, she said.

Investment in this area was a sign ACC wanted to be the fence at the top of the cliff, not the bottom.

ACC has also begun releasing details for each district health board about treatment injuries.

The DHBs' lead chief executive, Ron Dunham, said it would be useful.

"Some of these injuries occur after discharge from hospital so we can start to have a look then at just some of the interventions that need to be put into place to stop things like wound infections for instance, and these sort of things."

The Health Quality and Safety Commission chair, Alan Merry, said the ACC move was spot on, adding New Zealand was lucky to have ACC.

"In most parts of the world in order to get the sort of support that is provided through ACC patients actually have to resort to litigation, and that's not straightforward and it's not comfortable."

A more comfortable ACC, facing fewer claims from well patients in safer hospitals, was the aim all round.

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