Family member and local lawyer Wilkie Rasmussen says the late woman’s relatives met shortly after her funeral and have decided to press ahead with their pursuit of answers.
According to Rasmussen, the 51-year old woman died earlier this month in Rarotonga Hospital a day after visiting the outpatient clinic and being sent home with Panadol tablets.
Rasmussen says it has to be brought to the attention of authorities that “tough questions need to be asked and the government needs to step up and take responsibility.” He says the family want to know what really happened.
The lawyer is concerned that this is the second time a woman from the Penrhyn community on Rarotonga has died from pneumonia after being sent home presumably without undergoing a full physical examination and chest x-ray.
Rasmussen says as a first step, the family will refer their grievances to the Medical and Dental Council in the hope that the council will conduct a thorough investigation of all the circumstances surrounding the most recent death.
The council’s primary focus is to control professional and ethical standards of medical and dental practice.
Ministry of Health secretary Elizabeth Iro says the council is mandated under the Health Act to conduct investigations, “but (it) still requires strengthening.”
“This is a continuing work in progress for us and many of our Pacific neighbours.” She says support from the New Zealand Medical Council has recently been sought by MOH.
The council is chaired by Dr Deacon Teapa with members Dr Mareta Jacob, Dentist Kiranu Nio, Pastor John Tangi, Temarama Aunguna, Liz Iro and Dr Kiki Maoate as ex-officio. The council sits each quarter “or as often as necessary to address issues,” says Iro.
Iro explained that MOH does have an incident reporting procedure and “root cause analysis for investigations” that is managed by quality control manager Stella Neale. She says normally, she would initially refer complaints or “near misses” to Neale, “for a more thorough investigation and recommendations.”
The Ministry of Health and Secretary of Health can also order an investigation or inquiry and authorise who will conduct it.