Board rethinks endoscopy plan

Gil Barbezat.
Gil Barbezat.
The Southern District Health Board has gone back to the drawing board again on plans to provide long-awaited additional endoscopy facilities at Dunedin Hospital.

It is rethinking a project announced in June to develop a second gastrointestinal facility in 2014.

Costing up to $2.5 million, the facility would be located in the children's ward, which is set to move from the paediatric pavilion to the main hospital. It follows a failed partnership attempt with the University of Otago for a $5 million facility that was shelved earlier this year. In an email the board released under the Official Information Act earlier this year, Emeritus Prof Gil Barbezat said the current facility had been ''inadequate and unsafe for nearly 20 years''.

In Saturday's Otago Daily Times, Prof Barbezat said in a letter to the editor that Dunedin had only one endoscopy room for upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy, despite the South having the highest rate of bowel cancer in the world. Most other major centres in New Zealand now had four rooms for endoscopy, he said.

Newly appointed surgical medical director Murray Fosbender said in an email the arrival of new gastroenterology clinical leader Dr Jason Hill in October prompted a review of the gastroenterology service, including the proposed new facility.

''The previous facilities plan mentioned is still a possibility, but first we want to ensure that it is the best option before investing in it. The capital allocation will be decided at this time,'' Mr Fosbender said.

''We are confident that we have the facilities we require at the moment but need to ensure that we plan for increasing demand."

However, the National Health Board review of Dunedin Hospital last year, prompted in part by lack of access to colonoscopy, identified more than just capacity issues.

The report described the eighth-floor endoscopy facility as poor, not conducive to good and safe clinical practice, and having a risk of infection, a lack of timely access and lack of patient privacy. Mr Fosbender did not respond to email requests for further information.

In June, then gastroenterology clinical leader Prof John McCall said the new facility would have two outpatient endoscopy procedure rooms. It would complement the existing eighth-floor facility, which would be able to focus on inpatients and complex procedures.

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