Surgical mesh victims slam Ministry of Health for 'completely underestimating' problem

A nationwide series of forums has kicked off in Wellington today, to hear from New Zealanders harmed by surgical mesh. But campaigners say the Ministry of Health has been caught off guard by just how many people signed up to attend.

Surgical mesh is most commonly used for hernia repair, pelvic organ prolapse, and stress urinary incontinence. But it's led to many suffering from chronic pain, and the mental stress that brings. 

Since 2005, ACC has already paid out more than $23 million in compensation.

"Your life changes. The life you once thought you'd have, you're not able to have that anymore," says Mesh Down Under co-founder Charlotte Korte.

Korte has been campaigning for victims since 2012, after suffering her own mesh complications.

"We hear these tragic stories on a regular basis, and we know how hard that is, but it's really important that they listen and they find out what's going on."

The Ministry of Health is finally listening, organising restorative justice forums for victims and family members to share their experiences; and they'll be the first in the world to include men as well.

"The aim is actually to hear what people want to tell us. The issues around surgical mesh, how's it impacted on them, what problems is it causing, how we could be potentially be helping them go forward," says the Ministry of Health's chief medical officer Dr Andrew Simpson.

But in just three weeks, more than 340 people registered and the forums reached full capacity. It's believed the Ministry originally only planned for 180.

"Based on our original survey, yes, we are getting more registrations than we expected," admits Dr Simpson.

The Ministry's put on extra forums but had to cap the number of participants - meaning many will miss out on the chance to tell their story to the Ministry face-to-face.

"I think it was completely underestimated, and this shows just how big this issue really is," says Korte.

But Dr Simpson says video, audio, and written submissions will be accepted until the end of October.

"Look, still let us know their stories, still let us know their concerns, and we'll see how we can respond to that."

Submissions can be made here.