The West Coast District Health Board has revealed it's
offered no orthopaedic clinics at Buller Hospital for the
last six months.
Instead, most patients have had to travel to Grey Base
Hospital - a return trip of 200km.
The DHB revealed the lack of service only after questions
from the Westport News, which it has taken a month to answer.
The last Buller clinic was held in August last year, said
chief medical officer Carol Atmore. There had been occasional
private clinics since then.
She did not answer when asked why the DHB had stopped the
The monthly clinics used to provide 20 to 25 appointments. On
that basis, around 150 Buller people have had to go elsewhere
since the clinics stopped.
They disappeared after the DHB introduced its new transalpine
orthopaedic service last July. The WCDHB stopped employing
Auckland-based locum orthopaedic surgeons and replaced them
with surgeons from the Canterbury DHB.
At the time, the DHB said orthopaedic locum surgeons were
costing $2500 a day, plus expenses, and the arrangement had
However, the new arrangement means Grey Hospital is without
an orthopaedic surgeon for several days a week.
Dr Atmore today acknowledged the transalpine service had had
"teething problems" and said the DHB was working closely with
the Canterbury DHB to resolve them.
"Once the service is firmly embedded at Grey Base Hospital we
will look at how we can improve access for Westport people."
She said this might include telehealth services - using
technology to provide medical care at a distance.
However, Buller faces at least another six months without
local orthopaedic clinics.
"We hope to have a definitive timeline for the people of
Buller in the next six months," Dr Atmore said. "In the
meantime services are being provided for people in Buller at
Grey Base Hospital.
"We are continually looking at ways to improve our service to
ensure the Westport community has good access to orthopaedic
She said the transalpine orthopaedic service was giving West
Coasters a wide range of sub-speciality care, through the
surgeons providing the service out of Grey Base Hospital.
Buller Mayor Pat McManus said today that the DHB had had
ample opportunity to tell Buller patients about offering no
local orthopaedic clinics and he was concerned it hadn't done
- By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News