16 Jun 2017 | Perioperative Mortality Review Committee
The Perioperative Mortality Review Committee (POMRC) has identified what it says are unacceptable discrepancies in the mortality rates for New Zealand’s most deprived populations.
The POMRC reviews deaths related to surgery and anaesthesia that occur within 30 days of an operation. It advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce these deaths and makes recommendations to make surgery safer for patients.
Its sixth report, released today, contains a special chapter focusing on perioperative mortality and socioeconomic deprivation.
Findings include that people living in the most deprived areas (areas with greatest poverty) had a higher rate of perioperative mortality (0.63%) than people living in the least deprived areas (0.39%). The poorest patients were also almost twice as likely as the other group to have emergency surgery, and also had 14% more elective (waiting list) operations.
‘Whenever we see a death after surgery it represents a tragic loss of life,’ says POMRC Chair Dr Leona Wilson.
‘But this disparity in mortality rates and number of emergency admissions is glaring and we need to look into why it exists, as every person in New Zealand has the right to expect the same standard of health care regardless of their socioeconomic situation.
‘There are a number of reasons this may be occurring, including difficulty accessing or affording health care – it may be more difficult for those in the most deprived areas to travel to the doctor or get leave for the care they need for example. However, the POMRC believes there is no reason these disparities should exist and work needs to be done urgently in the sector to reduce them.’
The POMRC’s report makes a number of recommendations calling for research into socioeconomic and ethnic inequities in perioperative mortality, and emergency versus elective surgery rates, says Dr Wilson.
‘This research is important, as it will allow the New Zealand health sector to understand why these disparities exist and what can be done to reduce them.’
The POMRC is also recommending that district health boards, with the support of the Ministry of Health, investigate programmes to increase access to both primary care and medical and surgical specialists.