Figures showing just 27% of southern health patients are
getting a routine colonoscopy within six weeks seem ''at odds''
with the lack of interest in a free colonoscopy programme,
gastroenterologist Associate Prof Michael Schultz says.
Dr Schultz was reported in yesterday's Otago Daily
Times saying a Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes charity
initiative found it hard to fill the 30 available spots.
The programme was funded by the Central Otago Pinot Noir
Charitable Trust and Mercy Hospital's Charitable Outreach
Dr Schultz, the Dunedin-based doctor who will carry out the
procedures, said he could not explain the official figures,
of which he was unaware until contacted by the ODT.
He suggested a perception lingered from previous overloading
of the gastroenterology service, which deterred GPs from
''The perception out there is that you still can't get
colonoscopies, which is hard to understand, to a certain
Dr Schultz had had letters from GPs saying they would not
refer a particular patient for a colonoscopy because of
difficulties accessing the service, when the details of the
patient's case clearly warranted referral.
The figures were presented to a Southern District Health
Board committee in Invercargill last week.
In May, the most recent figures available, 65% of urgent
colonoscopies were performed on time (two weeks), 27% of
routine colonoscopies were performed on time (six weeks), and
53% of surveillance colonoscopies were performed within the
target of 12 weeks.
Wait times for urgent and surveillance procedures had
improved from the previous month, while routine waiting times
had worsened slightly.
Extra funding from the Ministry of Health had recently
allowed the board to complete an extra 185 procedures.
Improvement in routine and surveillance waiting times were
expected in the next three months, a report to the committee
Central Otago patients were on the same waiting list as
Dunedin patients, so waiting times would be consistent in
outlying areas and the city.
Queenstown Lakes patients fell into the Southland Hospital
While wait times were likely to be longer in Southland
Hospital than in Dunedin, Dr Schultz had not noticed greater
interest in the programme from people in Queenstown Lakes.
Health board gastroenterology clinical leader Jason Hill said
in an emailed statement the gastroenterology team used
nationally recommended criteria for service access.
''An additional 185 colonoscopies have been completed by 30
June as a result of additional funding from the Ministry of
"This funding will result in a decrease in the number of
colonoscopies waiting for extended periods of time.''
The board did not respond to a request for a breakdown of
wait times showing Otago and Southland individually.