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  • Rebekah.Orr

Of Hospitals and Health Care

This wasn't really supposed to be a series of three posts talking about the costs of accidents in the workplace, but gosh darn it, here we are. We've talked about the fines brought down on businesses that sometimes make it impossible for the business to survive, and we've talked about how investing in workplace safety, that is the prevention of accidents in the first place, actually increases output and helps minimise inefficiencies.

It goes without saying that the emotional cost of death and serious accidents is impossible to measure, so we're not going to even try here. But what we can look at is how workplace accidents affect other sectors. Like healthcare.

Here in the land of the long white cloud, we're lucky enough to have a state funded healthcare system. It might have its issues, there's no arguing that - we all know someone who has had to wait far too long for a knee replacement or some such, but the reality is that when they get that surgery, it doesn't cost them. Not directly, anyways. See, we're all taxpayers, and our tax dollars fund the healthcare system that means if our kid needs heart surgery we don't have to choose between selling the house to pay for it or gambling that our precious child will live long enough without it that we can somehow raise the funds to cover saving them. And that's just the point. According to the Midland Trauma System, who collect data from across five district health boards (Waikato, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty), workplace accidents and injuries cost roughly $4.7 million per year in their districts alone. According to the article ( ) that's about 600 accident each year; over five years, around 3000 accidents costing $23 million in total. That means on average, each accident cost just under $8,000. To be fair those accidents could range from everything from a fall or a paper cut to head injuries or the loss of a limb and obviously some will cost more than others, but funding can't be spent twice, so every dollar that goes towards largely preventable workplace accidents can't be spent elsewhere.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm very glad that those people had access to care that didn't cost them; nobody begrudges them that. The difference is that most workplace accidents are preventable, and a knee wearing out or a child born with a hole in their heart isn't. I think we'd all like to see kids get heart surgery as soon as they need it, or people get their knee replacements without waiting for years in pain. Let's get those numbers down, so some other ones can go up.

If we don't invest in safety, we pay for accidents, and anyone in the health sector will tell you: prevention is a damn sight better than cure.

Take care out there.

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