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The Southern District Health Board has "sincerely" apologised to patients who have waited too long for treatment, and pledged to create a more sustainable future where patient needs are central.
After a barrage of criticism about treatment delays and the state of Dunedin Hospital, SDHB commissioners Kathy Grant, Richard Thomson and Graham Crombie yesterday issued a lengthy public response to the Otago Daily Times.
They were aware of serious concerns among the community about healthcare access.
"We sincerely apologise to those whose wait for treatment has been too long, and acknowledge the impact this has on your lives."
Issues raised recently had led to discussion about the relationship between money and outcomes in the health system.
"It’s an important point — and money indeed matters — but it risks being over-simplified."
The commissioners were committed to securing a long-term, sustainable future for SDHB.
"This means placing the needs of patients at the centre of what we do."
The response comes as public anger continues to build against Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, following his criticism of Dunedin Hospital’s urology department.
Faced with questions about the poor performance of the southern urology service, including cancer patients waiting too long for surgery, Dr Coleman labelled the department "toxic".
That led Dr Latika Samalia, wife of urology surgeon KP Samalia, to this week write an emotional letter to Dr Coleman demanding an apology.
He has refused to withdraw the comment. Social media has been filled with messages of support for Mr Samalia, and calls for Dr Coleman to apologise. Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand board member and Dunedin support group co-ordinator Ken Cook, of Mosgiel, said he was disappointed with Dr Coleman’s statement.
"Over a number of years, I have had many dealings with the surgeons, nurses and other staff in the urology department and, in my experience with them, they have always been professional, courteous and willing to help in any way possible."
Kathy Fuller, of Dunedin said on Facebook: "[I’m] so sick of these know-all pen-pushers thinking they can deflect their issues on to the real people who are at the coal-face ... the people who see the reality of real people whose health may suffer at the hand of this government."
Another wrote: "The lack of respect shown by Mr [sic] Coleman is disgusting. He and his colleagues need to man up and apologise".
Despite repeated requests, Dr Coleman declined to comment on the issue.
Instead, he said an external review of the service had been commissioned and he believed it was due for release next week.
"The Government’s expectation is that patients receive appropriate and timely access to elective care to support the best clinical outcomes and improve their quality of life.
"It is important that DHBs prioritise their resources across specialties so that they best support those patients with the greatest level of clinical need, and potential to benefit from assessment and treatment.
"Patients should be treated in line with their clinical priority and time waiting."