A pelvic mesh Senate inquiry needs to focus on women: health advocate

DANNY Vadasz’s executive summary of a submission to the Senate inquiry into pelvic mesh, that’s holding a first public hearing on August 3, is considered, reasonable and scathing of Australia’s health system.

The summary is at the front of the Victorian Health Issues Centre submission to the inquiry, after a survey of more than 2200 Australian women who have had pelvic mesh surgery to treat incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse after childbirth.

About 20 Hunter women responded.

Mr Vadasz’s executive summary presents the Senate inquiry with a damning assessment of the health system, as experienced by women who walked into surgeries trusting their doctors, and the regulatory processes that allowed pelvic mesh devices to be marketed in Australia as safe for use.

The women’s trust has been betrayed. And when women went to doctors for help they were told the problems were in their heads or worse, they were ignored and not believed. When they complained to regulators their complaints were recorded, but not acted on. The women were silenced, shamed by the consequences of the mesh surgery, and isolated.

That scenario will sound very familiar to people in the Hunter.

It’s why it is no surprise that Mr Vadasz’s executive summary includes a section in which he compares the treatment of women pelvic mesh victims with the treatment of victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

It’s why he is particularly scathing of public debate on pelvic mesh that includes minimising the serious and permanent harm done to some women, because many others have not been harmed or have benefited from mesh surgery.

It was a similar argument used against adults who had been sexually abused by priests in churches. Because the churches “did good work”, the crimes committed against children needed to be seen in that context.

Women who will give evidence to the Senate inquiry, and Mr Vadasz and the Health Issues Centre, will argue the Australian health system is rife with public statements about protecting and caring for the community, but the pelvic mesh catastrophe has exposed that as a falsehood.

It is time to silence the doctors, regulators, bureaucrats and corporations, and listen to the women.

It’s called being patient-focused.

Issue: 38,549.