A woman diagnosed with bowel cancer at Dunedin Hospital
prompted a recall of patients for surveillance colonoscopies,
Southern District Health Board gastroenterology clinical leader
Dr Jason Hill said yesterday.
For about five years, the resource-stretched Dunedin Hospital
department restricted surveillance colonoscopies, procedures
performed on asymptomatic patients who because of family or
personal health history are at higher risk.
''The reason that we embarked on this [review] is that a
patient did present with cancer who would have been offered a
colonoscopy earlier. The patient's alive, and the patient's
had - as far as I understand - curative treatment,'' Dr Hill
Dr Hill, who arrived at the board in October, did not know
exactly when the woman presented. He understood her risk was
based on family history, and she would have been considered
at a moderate increased risk. As it was before his time, he
did not fully know what was offered while surveillance was
restricted to those at higher levels of risk.
''I can't give you a specific answer as to what wasn't or was
provided here [in Dunedin].''
The review of past cases was also ''timely'' because of
increased staffing in the department, he said.
Since last September, the hospital has looked at hundreds of
cases, and had determined about 220 patients required a
colonoscopy, Dr Hill said.
Asked if any would have developed polyps, he said: ''I think
it's almost certain some of them will have developed polyps
in the meantime.''
Once the procedures were carried out, the board would
disclose information about how many patients had developed
cancer or polyps, he said.
Concluding the review would allow the department to move on.
''It's held the department back; the department works very
''It's negative, and it does nothing to engender any pride in
the department when all we hear is very negative things.''
Dr Hill hoped to clear the backlog by December, and planned
to use the private sector to help get through the cases.
Dr Hill, who worked in Waikato previously, said Dunedin's
restrictions on the procedure were not unusual and had
happened in other parts of New Zealand. However, Southland
Hospital had not restricted the procedure. Initially, 732
patients were identified as potentially affected by the
restrictions, and it was found about 400 had had the
procedure, some having waited an extended period of time. He
could not say whether some had opted to have their procedure
in the private sector.
Some patients had left the district, some had turned 75 and
were no longer eligible, and some had died from other causes.
Dr Hill, who leads gastroenterology services for Otago and
Southland, said general colonoscopy waiting times varied,
with the shortest waits in Dunedin.
Surgical medical director Murray Fosbender said plans were
still on hold for new endoscopy facilities, a long-awaited
development at Dunedin Hospital. There was ''big dough''
attached to capital works, and it was important to get it
right, by planning carefully, Mr Fosbender said.
He now favoured extending the existing Dunedin unit, rather
than establishing another unit in a different part of the