Increases in both urgent surgery and emergency department
patient numbers prompted concern at a Southern District Health
Board hospital committee meeting in Dunedin yesterday.
In August, the board carried out 20% more urgent surgery than
it had planned.
There was also a 10% increase in ED presentations in Dunedin
and Invercargill in the three months from June to August,
compared with the corresponding period last year.
In Dunedin, there were 11,333 presentations, compared with
10,130 during the same time last year. At Southland Hospital,
there were 9394 presentations, up from 8618 last year.
Board member Dr Branko Sijnja wondered if patients were not
accessing the help in primary care that could prevent them
needing assistance urgently.
Board member Richard Thomson, commenting on the urgent
surgery, thought the strain might be showing from the system
trying to do more and more work without extra funding.
Patient services medical director Dick Bunton said separate
funding streams for urgent and acute surgery was
''nonsense'', because it all came down to the same patient
Patient services director Lexie O'Shea said board hospitals
had been under ''huge pressure'' in the past couple of
Board member Tim Ward was concerned by the high number of
Southland presentations relative to the area's population.
Presentations in Southland in August were the highest the
department had seen.
In August, Dunedin's ED managed to treat 89.5% of patients
within six hours, while Southland treated 91.4% within the
Chief executive Carole Heatly said access to GPs was
generally better in Dunedin than in Invercargill, a factor
people took into account when deciding whether to refer
themselves to ED.
Mr Thomson gave staff some rare praise for figures appearing
to show patients were receiving surgery more quickly.
The Government target was surgery within five months of being
promised, and a ''healthy graph'' presented yesterday showed
most received treatment within three.
This was a significant improvement on the past few years, Mr
The committee also heard about three specialist appointments
expected to relieve burdens in two specialty areas.
A long-standing urology shortage in Dunedin should be
alleviated next year with the appointment of two urologists,
the first arriving in March.
It was hoped a new Invercargill-based ear nose and throat
consultant, who had started work, would help reduce a backlog
of patients waiting more than five months for a first