Sharing Lived Experiences of Surgical Mesh

In a press release from Associate Minister of Health, Julie Anne Genter, on the 29th of November, the Government announced that it “is asking people to register their interest in sharing their surgical mesh experiences, in order to improve patient safety in the future.”

Ms Genter said: “This is an opportunity to hear from New Zealanders about their lived experience of surgical mesh, and what else needs to be fixed to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“As a first step, the Ministry of Health is gauging public interest in how people want to share their experiences. We welcome everyone’s contribution, so please head to our website† to have your say.

“We know surgical mesh has caused considerable pain and harm to many New Zealanders and their whānau.”

They acknowledged that a Medsafe report* has found that more than 1000 people have reported issues with surgical; mesh. However, this is likely to understate the real impact of mesh. ACC received over 1018 treatment injury claims between 2005 and June 2018, and some people may not be aware that their symptoms are as a result of the adverse impacts of mesh. Passive reporting systems are widely known to result in under-reporting of adverse events across a range of medicines and devices.

In September, the MoH introduced surgical mesh procedure credentialing within the public health service, and as a result 13 DHBs have either ceased offering such procedures permanently or until they can comply with the requirements. Currently only seven DHBs now offer surgical mesh procedures.

In the current actions to reduce the harm from surgical mesh there are two significant issues of concern:

  1. That while private hospitals were written to at the same time as the DHBs about credentialing, and some have responded positively, there is no obligation for surgeons operating privately to comply with the requirements imposed in the public health system; and
  2. Surgeons are not required to demonstrate that they are able to remove mesh if complications occur.

Regarding the initiative in which the Government is gauging people’s desire to share their mesh stories, the MoH says:

“As part of its response to ongoing concerns with the use of surgical mesh, the Ministry of Health is wanting to provide an opportunity for people who have been harmed by surgical mesh and their families/whānau to tell their stories.

It is important that any such opportunity is inclusive and supportive of people’s different needs and situations. Therefore, we would like to hear from those who are interested in telling their story, about how they would like to do this.

You could be someone directly harmed by mesh, or a family/whānau member or friend.”

The MoH online survey was open until Friday, 18 January 2019.

* The report Adverse Event Reports Relating to Surgical Mesh Implants: Summary of data received by Medsafe, August 2018, is available at