Three cardiology transfer patients died after the
Southern District Health Board started to transport patients to
Christchurch when no service was available in the South.
The patients who died, in June and July last year, were all
transferring from Southland. Following the deaths, the board
moved to a full-time interventional cardiology service.
It meant hiring two additional interventional cardiologists;
one started in January, and another last month. Locum cover
had also supported the service since last July.
Chief medical officer David Tulloch said the board did not
know whether the three patients could have survived if a
full-time service had been available in Dunedin.
''We do not know, with certainty, if outcomes would have been
different for these individual patients had they been treated
Certainly, the quicker that patients undergo procedures the
better, and the travel time to Christchurch is not ideal for
supporting good outcomes.''
Transferring patients to Christchurch from areas other than
Dunedin took too long. The delay involved was ''not optimal
to support good patient outcomes [even with helicopters] and
this is why we have now moved to full cover'', Dr Tulloch
said in a written statement.
A timeline of events provided to the Otago Daily Times shows
cardiologists wrote to chief executive Carole Heatly in
September 2012 about safety concerns.
''An incident occurred where there was no [interventional
cardiology] cover and an incident was logged by nursing
staff. Consultants supported the family, who were very
angry,'' the timeline said.
Asked about the nature of that event, the board said it was
not a death.
A transfer arrangement was agreed informally with the
Canterbury District Health Board in October 2012.
The arrangement was formalised the following July, and will
continue as a backup to the Dunedin-based service.
Last year, six patients were transferred to Christchurch, and
a seventh patient died before their transfer.
A patient transferring in June from Invercargill died in
Christchurch; the patient who was set for transfer from
Invercargill died in Southland Hospital emergency department
A third patient, transferring from Gore, died in Christchurch
Two patients transferred from Dunedin and two from
Invercargill, all successfully.
One of the deaths in Christchurch happened after the flight
landed, but before the patient reached hospital.
No formal complaints had been lodged with the board about the
deaths. Only one case met the threshold required for national
reporting as a serious adverse event.
Before the 2012 specialists' letter, the board relied on
interventional cardiologists providing ''informal cover'',
which was not full-time, Dr Tulloch said.
Patient services director Lexie O'Shea said there had been no
gaps in interventional cardiology cover in 2014.
Interventional cardiology involves performing catheter-based