Australian PM defends health system amid furore over miscarriages

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Sydney, Sep 27 (UNI) Australian Prime Minister John Howard today defended the public health system in the country which was being blamed for incidents of miscarriages at a major hospital here.

''This would appear to be a very serious mistake but I think we should be careful to understand that compared with the health systems of other countries, our system is good,'' the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted the Prime Minister as saying.

Mr Howard was responding to public anger over two women criticising nursing staff at Royal North Shore Hospital for miscarriages after long waits.

The government also called for wide-ranging inquiry into the hospital.

In the first incident, Ms Jana Horska had a miscarriage after waiting for two hours without treatment in the hospital's Emergency Department on Tuesday night.

In another incident, 40-year-old Jenny Langmaid said she had a miscarriage in the hospital in June 2005, after waiting for almost two hours, being told there were no beds.

Health Minister Tony Abbott described Ms Horska's case as an absolute tragedy.

The New South Wales state government apologised for the incidents and ordered an investigation, but the State Opposition has called for a wide-ranging independent inquiry into the matter.

A senior Emergency Department doctor at the hospital said the case highlights a problem of overcrowding and over-stretched facilities across Australia's public hospital system.

Dr Tony Joseph, head of the department's trauma unit, said ''This could happen in any emergency department in this city, in this state and in this country.'' UNI

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