Pelvic surgical mesh treatment service will deliver for women

Health

A new nationwide service offering support and treatment for women suffering complications from surgery involving pelvic mesh is starting to deliver improved outcomes, says Associate Health Minister Willow-Jean Prime.

The New Zealand Female Pelvic Mesh Service opened in April, and today in Auckland Minister Prime met many of those involved in its co-design, including mesh-injured consumers, Māori health and Pacific health representatives, clinicians and Te Whatu Ora leadership. ACC was another important collaborator.

“It’s been vitally important to resolve the pain and distress some women experience after pelvic mesh surgery,” Willow-Jean Prime said.

“We now know much more about the complications that can arise from using surgical mesh, particularly when treating stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. It’s an issue that’s received international attention, as well as here in Aotearoa.

“Thanks to the Service, women referred through their GPs or specialists can now access a multidisciplinary team offering a number of options, including chronic pain management, continence care, counselling and surgery.

“I am very pleased the Government has been able to support the establishment of a service which so directly helps women affected.”

The Service, which has had more than 50 referrals so far, offers specialist care and support centred on women’s choices, and reflects recommendations from the 2019 restorative justice project on surgical mesh: Hearing and Responding to the Stories of Survivors of Surgical Mesh.

Health navigators based at two locations – one in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) and the other in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) – work with women around the country to help put together the best treatment options.

These options are then delivered by a number of professionals, including specialist nurses, physiotherapists, pain specialists, social workers, occupational therapists and credentialled surgeons.

Carmel Berry is a mesh-injured consumer who played a key role in getting the Service off the ground. In 2014 she was a co-presenter of a petition to the Health Select Committee highlighting the issues involved in surgical mesh. She also created the Mesh Down Under advocacy group in 2012 and is part of the consumer group that co-designed the new Service.

“The 2019 restorative justice report was incredibly validating for many people, not just women,” Carmel Berry said.

“The launch of this service has gone a long way to answering the strong message in that report - people wanted highly trained and skilled doctors available here in New Zealand.

"It has taken a few years to get it right, but we now have a service that is available to those women that need it, wherever they live in the country," Carmel Berry said.