Health and Disability watchdog’s Annual Report highlights pandemic challenges

The challenges faced by people using health and disability services are highlighted in HDC’s latest annual report, says Health and Disability Commissioner Morag McDowell.

“Our role as an independent watchdog upholding consumer’s rights places us in a unique position to understand how people are experiencing services, including during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ms McDowell.

“During the 2019/20 year HDC continued to see an upward trend in the number of complaints compared to previous years, with people making a total of 2,393 complaints about health and disability services.

“This included 151 complaints received during the initial stages of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. Problems accessing hospital or primary care services, restrictions on visitors and support people, infection control policies, and the standard of care during Alert Levels 3 and 4 were common themes in these complaints.

“The health and disability sector was under extreme pressure during the initial COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and I acknowledge the significant efforts that were made to meet people’s needs during this time.

“As a country we were learning and adapting to how the pandemic would affect many parts of our daily lives, including access to health and disability services. It’s important that we take these lessons, and improve the care that people receive as we remain alert to COVID-19.

“The Code of Health and Disability Consumer’s Rights continues to apply at every alert level. I encourage people to get in touch with the National Advocacy Service for support or make a complaint to the HDC if they have concerns about the care they are receiving.  

Ms McDowell took up her role in September 2020, with previous Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill in the role for the period spanning the 2019/20 Annual Report (July 2019 to June 2020).

“I acknowledge the work of the previous Health and Disability Commissioner, Anthony Hill, and his team for their commitment to upholding the rights of people using health and disability services during this time,” said Ms McDowell.

“Despite the pressures of COVID-19 restrictions, HDC was able to close 2,226 complaints in 2019/20 and increase the number of formal investigations completed by 30% compared to the previous year.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the recommendations HDC makes are complied with. In 2019/20 HDC made 773 recommendations for change to the health and disability sector.

“I feel fortunate to be standing on the solid foundation set by Anthony Hill and his predecessors as I lead the organisation on the next phase of its journey,” she said. 

Read HDC’s Annual Report for 2019/20.