Prior to practising law, Wendy spent several years working in the public and private health sector as a registered nurse specialising in intensive care and emergency nursing. She then spent many years in various senior management positions in a major tertiary and teaching District Health Board (DHB). Wendy also worked as a New Zealand delegate for the International Red Cross in several overseas postings.
Working as a health professional and manager, Wendy experienced many situations that involved complicated legal and ethical issues. This led to her interest in the law and how the law could assist with complex medico-legal issues. During this period she completed degrees in commerce in law.
Wendy’s extensive experience working alongside health professionals and healthcare managers gives her a unique appreciation of the complexities, challenges, and constraints healthcare providers face in their day-to-day practice, and what providers need from their legal advisers. Wendy has spent several months on secondment as in-house counsel at secondary and tertiary DHBs, and regularly provides legal cover for an in-house professional college legal counsel when on leave.
Wendy advises public and private organisations on health and medico-legal issues, including sharing and disclosure of information, consent, PPPR Act including urgent treatment orders and decision-making for people with mental incapacity, mental health and elder care, refusal of treatment, and other matters relating to patients’ rights. She routinely advises on managing concerns about health practitioners’ competence or fitness to practise, clincial and corporate governance issues including obligations and liabilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act, good decision-making, procedural fairness and natural justice. Wendy also runs interactive workshops on medico-legal issues, Health and Safety at Work Act, and privacy and information issues for health professionals and managers.
Wendy’s experience includes
- Advising on and preparing statements in response to Health and Disability Commissioner inquiries and investigations and Coronial inquiries.
- Advising on minimising risk when introducing innovative practices including nurses diagnosing medical conditions; multi-skilling angiography staff to perform activities within other registered health practitioners’ scopes of practice; use of new titles; and new positions, including unregistered workers providing services.
- Advising on treatment of children including when one parent refuses consent; child refusing parental involvement; parents refusing life-saving treatment; underage child requiring sexual health services; and disclosure of a child’s health information to parents.
- Advising on providers working with welfare guardians and persons holding enduring power of attorney for personal care and welfare, and for property, including where there is suspected financial abuse, and complex family situations.
- Advising on medication issues and the Medicines Act, including caregivers administering PRN subcutaneous medication to patients at home; accountability of registered nurses directing caregivers, and requirements/restrictions for dispensing controlled drugs; a doctor prescribing menopause medication without a face-to-face consultation, and a nurse dispensing on-going doses; use of standing orders for repeat prescriptions; and legality of electronic signatures.
- Advising private surgical providers on regulations, by-laws and credentialling systems, and clinical practice investigations relating to practitioners with clinical privilege arrangements in private hospitals.
- Advising on guardianship orders for unborn twins where the health of the twins was at risk, and the mother was refusing a hospital delivery and lifesaving treatment potentially necessary immediately after birth.
- Advising on treatment of a pregnant patient with HIV who was refusing to allow practitioners in her care to be told of her HIV status.
- Advising on disclosure of information to Child Youth and Family Service, and other agencies including a police request for the disclosure of information and property without the patient’s knowledge, and reviewing a clinical psychologist’s reports to CYAF Service where there was mixed information and threat of litigation.
- Advising on disclosure of information about deceased individuals including where there are conflicting requests and orders from family members and persons holding enduring power of attorney.
- Advising on disclosure to family/caregivers of mental health patients when the patient refuses family involvement (s7A MH(CAT) Act, s22F Health Act, HIP Code); disclosing statements of criminal or sexual offending, including ownership of health records and management of records when a GP practice closes/GP leaves.
- Advising on legality and use of covert recording, retention of clinical photographs, and videoing surgery for live streaming at an international conference.
- Advising on management of significant privacy breaches including where an organisation had fallen victim to a spear phishing scam affecting members nationwide; and assisting with responses to, and settlement conferences with, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
- Advising on numerous requests for information under the Official Information Act including transferring the request to another agency; consultation on requests including requests involving government Ministers; withholding grounds and public interest considerations in providing the information.
- Advising on legal obligations when a provider is aware of competence concerns with Lead Maternity Care midwife with access agreement, including advising on whether the DHB can impose additional access requirements, and reporting concerns to the Midwifery Council.
- Representing health professionals before Professional Conduct Committees, competence review processes and health committees.
- Reviewing policies and drafting plain language policies and legal compliance checklists.