Decision deemed a victory for common sense

Surgeons "overstepped" the mark in advocating a Christchurch-only service, Dunedin Hospital intensive care clinical leader Mike Hunter said yesterday, commenting on the announcement Dunedin will keep neurosurgery.

The decision was a "victory for common sense" that would save people's lives.

"I am greatly relieved that we will not have to face the unsavoury prospect of seeing acute patients die while we struggle to transport them in a timely manner to Christchurch."

While an independent governance structure was sensible because of damage to regional DHB relationships, he sounded a note of caution about the new arrangement.

"This sort of governance arrangement is a venture into uncharted territory and there is no guarantee that those appointed will share our philosophy of care, or [the philosophy of care] of the panel."

Mr Hunter said neurosurgery as a specialty had been "out of step" with the public: the determination to reshape neurosurgery met with resistance because it would have cost lives.

Southern District Health Board chief executive Brian Rousseau applauded the decision, saying once operating, the service would significantly improve neurosurgical services in the South Island.

Much "hard work" was needed to implement the system, which should happen "urgently".

Mr Rousseau did not believe the outcome threatened his appointment of two European neurosurgeons, set to start in January, which he did amid the uncertainty about whether Dunedin would keep the service.

Chief medical officer (Otago) Richard Bunton said he was confident the governance board would acknowledge the two were good recruits with the required qualifications.

It was evident from reading the panel's report the southern board's concern about the risks of centralising neurosurgery in Christchurch had been accepted.

The outcome was a "vote of confidence" in the South, in Dunedin Hospital, and in Otago University.

Departing Southern District Health Board chairman Errol Millar applauded the "wonderful decision" but also sounded a note of caution about the challenges faced by those charged with setting up the new service.

Relationship building with Canterbury was crucial, as was recruitment and establishing the academic component strongly.

The neurosurgery campaign spearheaded by the Otago Daily Times and the Southland Times deserved a "huge accolade" for informing the public about the issue.


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