Labour steps up fight on surgical mesh

(Getty / file)
(Getty / file)

Labour's stepping up the fight against surgical mesh, and says it's time people stopped being so squeamish about vaginas.

The party is calling on the Government to launch a full inquiry into surgical mesh and its use in surgery to repair vaginal prolapse.

Health spokeswoman Annette King has supplied Newshub with information revealing inconsistencies in how mesh is used among district health boards. She says it demonstrates a need for Government regulator Medsafe to provide some direction on how mesh should be used, and to improve its regulation of medical devices coming into New Zealand.

"I want an inquiry that looks at what has happened to women, what this product does in terms of its use, whether we should be using it, and how do we fix the problem of those where it has been used and has caused internal injury, pain, and disability."

Surgical mesh is a medical device permanently implanted into the body's tissue. Different types of mesh have been used for more than 30 years in surgeries like breast reconstruction and hernia repair with few problems.

However in some cases, particularly when it's used to strengthen the vaginal wall or to repair pelvic organ prolapse, it can erode or perforate organs - which can lead to chronic pain.

Charlotte Korte is a sufferer of chronic pain caused by surgical mesh, and she says Labour's call is fantastic.

"There needs to be more urgent action to help patients who are suffering already."

She says what's needed is a multi-prong approach including Medsafe, ACC, the Health and Disability Commission and patients.

"Unless we get those agencies together to discuss surgical mesh complications, we can't really move forward.

"It's going to take a long time and cost a lot of money so the Government needs to start taking some accountability."

Labour steps up fight on surgical mesh


Health select committee recommendations:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said in a statement today he was still seeking advice from officials on the issue following the select committee's recommendations.

Ms King says the recommendations from the health select committee, which she sits on, were weak.

"It is an issue that is serious, that affects many women, and there have been over 500 claims to ACC over the last decade on this particular product," Ms King says.

"This is a bigger issue than a group of politicians. It needs the expertise outside of the political arena."

She was alarmed by what she found when she requested information on how district health boards use mesh.

"Some have never used it. Some have stopped using it based on reports, some continue to use it but using the guidelines of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

"And then when you look at the guidelines, this is what the guidelines say: 'Very little robust information is available on the efficacy and long term safety of polypropylene mesh kits marketed for their use in the management of pelvic organ prolapse.' That is from the college themselves."

Ms King says part of the problem is an unwillingness to talk about "female problems".

"It's flown under the radar. Perhaps because it's being used in vaginal prolapse, it's not something that people go out and talk about in public, get on television and say, 'This is what's happened to me.'"