PUBLIC hospitals in the Hunter New England region are the most complained about in the state recording the highest number and percentage of grievances.
The region's public hospitals received 14 per cent of all complaints about public hospitals in NSW in 2019-20, up from 12 per cent where it has hovered since 2016-17.
It is the only statistic within the Health Care Commission's annual report which can be traced to a specific region.
Critics say the number of complaints and adverse outcomes that occur in the Hunter must be more closely examined and have called for the release of more detailed, regionally-relevant information.
Hunter-based health lawyer and Australian Lawyers' Alliance NSW spokeswoman on health, Catherine Henry, says the John Hunter Hospital is one of the most sued in the state, followed closely by Maitland Hospital, and more transparency is required.
It is "disappointing", she said, that no public hearings are being held in the Hunter as part of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional, and remote NSW.
"My firm handles many medical negligence cases for local people," Ms Henry said.
"Many local people suffer avoidable death and injury because of preventable negligence, caused by under-resourcing, lack of staff and systemic failures.
"Our regional has a large population but still does not have the proportionate resources that Sydney health services receive. The Hunter's proximity to Sydney does not mean that it does not experience the same issues being faced by other regional, rural and remote communities."
Australia falls well behind other OCED countries, failing to record and make available regionally-specific data showing the number of avoidable deaths and injuries as a result of inequitable health resourcing, the alliance says in its submission to the inquiry.
The alliance has called for meaningful data to be recorded and made publicly available on adverse events, and a radical new approach to information technology with real time tracking data and public disclosure.
It has also called for greater details to be recorded on death certificates in cases where death has occurred as a result of an adverse event or death was an "unexpected outcome".
The inquiry started hearings in Deniliquin on April 29 and is scheduled to hold hearings in the New England region in June at Gunnedah and Tamworth.
A spokesman for Hunter New England Health has said that senior members of staff had been "pencilled in'' to attend those hearings.
There have been 700 submissions to the inquiry including one from John Hunter Hospital staff saying the region's trauma service is "at risk of collapse" due to the sheer volume of severely injured patients it treats.
A "critical" lack of staff and specialists, missed diagnoses, long wait times and a lack of accessible services in Hunter New England are some of the other concerns patients and healthcare staff have raised.
Some of the complaints raised in submissions to the inquiry may also have been recorded by the Health Care Complaints Commission which says the number of complaints it receives is relatively small given the volume of health services provided across the state.
Often complaints are addressed by the relevant health service provider directly and that was becoming increasingly the case, it said.
There has been year on year grow in the number of complaints to the commission despite the impact of COVID-19 last year.
The state was tracking towards a ten per cent increase in complaints but that was reduced to 7.6 per cent due to a massive fall in complaints during April and May of 2020 when many health services were repurposed, scaled back or prohibited due to COVID-19.
The most commonly complained about issue was treatment, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of all complaints, followed by professional conduct of a health service provider, and communication.
The most common issues raised in the treatment category were inadequate care, inadequate treatment, and unexpected treatment outcome/complication.
Other treatment issues included rough and painful treatment, no referral or inappropriate referral, infection control and withdrawal of treatment.
As in the previous two years, treatment-related complaints were most commonly made about dental practitioners (54 per cent) and medical practitioners (51 per cent).
More than half of all complaints made were discontinued, making up almost 55 per cent of all assessment outcomes.
A standout issue for the commission is the number of unregistered practitioners, the report said, with many of those complaints relating to criminal actions.
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