The Southern District Health Board wants to cut the numbers
of patients sitting on "active review" - those with an
expectation, but no certainty, of receiving surgery.
These patients fall below the commitment of receiving surgery
within six months, and are monitored by their GP with the aim
of surgery within 18 months.
Numbers have grown in some specialties, such as in
orthopaedics, where 266 patients were on active review in
September, up 36% on the corresponding time last year.
Patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea told
Wednesday's hospital advisory committee orthopaedics was the
first area staff were targeting. A special "joint clinic",
which started in Dunedin this year to help osteoarthritis
patients find alternatives to surgery, was a first step.
But she warned: "It won't be an overnight fix."
The process would take several months to produce reductions,
which the board hoped would be significant.
Chief medical officer Dr David Tulloch said too many patients
were admitted to active review, which needed to be reserved
for those just below the threshold for the next category.
Doctors should not assume surgery was the only fix for pain
or other symptoms, he said.
Sometimes the remedy was simple, like supplying a person with
a different walking stick, he said.
A change in mindset was needed from doctors, he said.
"Give us a bit of credit," member Dr Branko Sijnja, a GP,
Dr Tulloch indicated his comments were more concerned with
Board member Richard Thomson said it was important the active
review category was correctly applied, otherwise it "creates
false expectations about the likelihood of treatment and
that's not a good thing".
• At yesterday's full board meeting, chairman Joe Butterfield
sought and received an assurance from management that
Southern would meet its 2012-13 elective surgery target, on
which it is 3% behind so far this year.