General surgeons in Dunedin and Invercargill will start taking some acute urology calls this year to relieve pressure on the centres' two permanent urologists. The move was revealed in a newsletter to Otago GPs yesterday.
A ''difficult staffing situation'' continued to pressure urology departments in Southland and Dunedin, Dr Anne Worsnop's newsletter said.
Each site had only one permanent urologist. A locum in Dunedin leaves next month, and the board has been unable to secure another one.
''We are behind in most areas of urology, in terms of follow-up and timeliness of surgery for cancer patients.
''We do not have resources to address this currently and some patients will be referred out of the district.
''We are using some additional lists in the holiday period while we have a locum,'' Dr Worsnop said.
Chief medical officer Dr David Tulloch said it was common practice in some health boards for general surgeons to provide such assistance.
They would be called up only for after-hours work, and were unlikely to do any complex procedure, he said.
Asked about the situation in the week before Christmas, patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said urology referrals were not being seen as quickly as the board liked. New managers running clinical services following a recent restructuring were trying to ''develop an understanding of the issues and to look at changes to ensure that people are seen promptly''.