Thousands getting unnecessary surgery and other harmful hospital treatments: as reported in the Canberra Times

About 6000 people – or 16 a day – had ineffective treatments that cost up to $4400 in both public and private hospitals in 2010-11, a Grattan Institute report says.

The researchers analysed some treatments that are effective but should not be done routinely and concluded that some women were receiving potentially harmful interventions during childbirth that they do not need.

The report said episiotomies, a surgical cut made between the vagina and anus during labour for spontaneous vaginal births without complications, were being done at much higher rates in some hospitals, suggesting inappropriate use. Similarly, amniotomy, an artificial rupture of membranes to augment labour during a normal delivery, was occurring at a suspicious rate in some hospitals.

“These treatments should not be given automatically, although they may be the best choice for some patients, such as those with unusual problems or conditions, or where other options have failed. Yet very high variation in how often these procedures are given suggests that some hospitals choose them much too often,” the report said.

“Strikingly, women with spontaneous vaginal deliveries are almost three times more likely to have an episiotomy in the private sector.”