Surgeon anger over hospital comparison website

 

SURGEONS may refuse to do operations that could make them look bad on a new rate-and-compare hospital website to be unveiled within months, doctors say.

The Palaszczuk Government's plan to launch a TripAdvisor-style website for every public and private hospital has angered surgeons, who say they're being unfairly targeted.

The Australian-first site will roll out from April, comparing key measures like survival rates, infection rates, revision rates, complications, hygiene ratings, outpatient wait times and competency.

It's meant to give patients choice and up the ante for lagging hospitals to improve.

The site will first compare maternity services, then cancer services, renal disease, diabetes, mental health and stroke care.

Surgeon groups say the rate-and-compare website could ruin careers.
Surgeon groups say the rate-and-compare website could ruin careers.

Nurse ratios at aged-care facilities who choose to comply will also be available.

But Queensland's Surgical Advisory Committee - an expert group representing various surgical specialties - says the plan "will only anger and alienate senior clinicians".

Chair Dr Robert Franz said when individual surgeon outcomes had been published overseas, it had only disadvantaged vulnerable patients.

"All the surgeons said, 'we're not going to do high-risk surgeries because it's not worth our while'," he said.

"If you do high-risk surgeries, it doesn't matter if you're the best surgeon, you're still going to get complications."

Dr Franz accused Queensland Health of publishing "false data", which could ruin careers if put on such a website.

He said a facility he once worked at had data published showing one quarter of patients suffered renal failure, but it turned out the data-entry worker had misunderstood the patient charts.

The Palaszczuk Government’s plan to launch a TripAdvisor-style website for every public and private hospital has angered surgeons, pictured, Health Minister Steven Miles. Picture: Annette Dew
The Palaszczuk Government’s plan to launch a TripAdvisor-style website for every public and private hospital has angered surgeons, pictured, Health Minister Steven Miles. Picture: Annette Dew

"It's easy to publish stuff, but once it's out there, it's gospel and it's really hard to claw back," he said.

"League tables" were also unfair because not all surgeries were the same.

Doctors have argued performance measures must be adjusted for patient risk-factors like age, obesity, diabetes and smoking.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Queensland chair Professor Deborah Bailey said legislation to set up the site gave the Government "far-reaching powers" to eventually report on measures like individual doctor performance.

"The stakes are high," she said.

"Performance measurement done badly is … harmful and destructive."

She said patients could end up with "unrealistic expectations", with women in labour already dangerously bypassing local hospitals for ones with public/private rooms and water birthing.

However, the Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) and Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) have backed the website.

Dr Dilip Dhupelia is in favour of greater transparency. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Dr Dilip Dhupelia is in favour of greater transparency. Picture: Mark Cranitch

AMAQ president Dr Dilip Dhupelia said greater transparency would allow the public real choice.

"For health providers, this proposed website increases accountability … and places the providers who are not performing as highly as other facilities on notice," he said.

The QNU wants the site to go further and include patient experience surveys, post-surgical mortality rates, and instances of assault, abuse, poor care, mistreatment and neglect that occur in aged care facilities.