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A group of clinicians, led by University of Otago cancer researcher Brian Cox and Canterbury doctor Phil Bagshaw, yesterday called for a public inquiry into the service, saying such scrutiny was the only way to uncover all issues besetting colonoscopy patients in Otago and Southland.
The service is one of the most scrutinised medical departments in New Zealand, having been the subject of three highly critical reports in recent years, including one co-authored by Dr Bagshaw.
However, Mr Hodgson fired back yesterday, saying the service’s former failings had been long acknowledged, fixed and apologised for.
"To continue to seek yet another inquiry impugns the integrity of current clinicians and current practice," he said.
“The endless re-litigation has become a distraction for a large bunch of deeply committed clinicians who are delivering a quality cancer prevention service for our population and who wish to keep doing so."
The Bagshaw-Ding report, released last year, called for an urgent overhaul of the management of colorectal cancer in the Southern DHB area after an audit of 20 cases found undue delay to diagnosis or treatment in 10 of them.
Mr Hodgson said the colonoscopy service had been reviewed enough, and that the very long waiting lists and waiting times of the past had been replaced by a service that was delivering good results.
"We have plenty of challenges at the Southern DHB, but colonoscopy is not one of them.
"In part that is because of the involvement of Dr Andrew Connolly, a general surgeon who was until recently the chair of the New Zealand Medical Council and whose ethics and integrity is beyond reproach.
“One of his key messages to the board is that the decision to undertake a bowel screening programme has saved multiple lives.
"Conversely, had the screening programme not been started, then many people alive today would be dead, and it is disgraceful that such a pivotally important message can be lost in this noise.”
In the most recent New Zealand Medical Journal Dr Bagshaw and Prof Cox collaborated on an article on the SDHB’s joining the bowel screening programme, which they said was precipitate and had placed lives at risk.
Dr Bagshaw said Mr Hodgson was entitled to his views but that he stood by his.
"This is not a trivial thing, this relates to the ethics of medical practice," he said.
"I can’t see the truth coming out without an inquiry. There are things that could be said if someone was subpoenaed and had to give evidence under cross-examination that I don’t think would otherwise be said.
Health Minister Andrew Little said that he was satisfied, based on reports he had read, that the process for the SDHB joining the national bowel cancer screening programme was thorough, and the decision to permit that work to start was proper.