Private healthcare needs better checks

At a time when the New Zealand economy is feeling the effects of the recession, the last thing that taxpayers would want is their hard-earned money wasted through improper checks and controls.

The allegation that some registered medical practitioners are enrolling patients without their knowledge, claiming regular payments from the District Health Boards falls into such a category.

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 should be amended, since not all health professions and professionals are now regulated.

The term, ‘Qualified Medical Practitioner’ should be properly defined to prevent some medical practitioners establishing a practice to provide traditional medicines from their country of origin from circumventing the rules to obtain benefits from the State. This would also prevent them from obtaining funds to which they may not be eligible.

Many experts believe that there is another factor that could perpetrate malpractices.

The New Zealand Privacy Act 1993 is being used as a shield for not giving information on patients being treated and the nature of the treatment. This is why the names of patients and the nature of treatment they receive are not available in the public domain.

Even the New Zealand Official Information Act 1982 creates a mechanism where information could be withdrawn for ‘Good Reason.’

The term ‘Good Reason’ is used for protecting privacy.

However, if the taxpayers’ money is being misused for treating patients, there should be a more robust and vigilant system in place.

The current practice of Public Health authorities collecting details of patients registered with medical Practitioners and checking them for accuracy genuineness appears to be sporadic, random, and therefore flawed.

It is possible that the system is circumvented in a sophisticated way for individual benefit. But there can be a mechanism in place with better checks and balances.

For instance, the health authorities could devise a system, which allows them to regularly meet with patients registered with medical practitioners to assess the treatment that they receive and its effectiveness.

This will also enable the District Health Boards to be assured of the efficiency of the health system on the one hand and benefits reaching people who deserve on the other.

Further, there is also room for a Policy that would match the medical history of patients with the benefits availed for treating them.

Such a Policy may appear complicated but computer technology would allow easier and simplified data entry to promote a more transparent system of checks and balances.

Besides, no Policy would be considered excessive, in the interest of ensuring that medical attention is provided to those who were truly in need and in assuring that millions of dollars on healthcare are spent appropriately.

Balaji Chandramohan graduated in Journalism from the Waikato University two years ago and is currently a journalist based in Delhi.

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