On course to clear wait for ophthalmology

The firm hired by the Southern District Health Board to clear its backlog of ophthalmology cases says it is on course to carry out its contracted 1000 appointments.

Last month, the Health and Disability Commissioner issued a report on the SDHB’s care of Koby Brown, who lost the sight in his right eye due to delays and missed opportunities to remedy his ailment.

Mr Brown’s case was referred to the director of proceedings for possible subsequent legal action.

The report came in the wake of an external review of the board’s ophthalmology services, which was conducted after the case of Mr Brown and other people who had been on waiting lists longer than they should, came to light.

The review recommendations included addressing the ophthalmology waiting list, and the SDHB subsequently contracted health human resources company Sequre  to carry out 1000 appointments between April and June.

Company director Vinod Govind said hospital assets were usually idle in the weekend, so by bringing extra staff south temporarily Sequre could double the ophthalmology capacity of local hospitals.

"We have already programmed 1000 appointments in," Mr Govind said.

"We could probably do more than that but for now we are looking at 1000 ... the other option is to go off to private practice, but private practice has to pay for all their facilities, whereas we don’t have that cost — we are using the hospital’s own facilities, so it is a huge benefit to them."

Sequre had also brought in specialist orthoptic surgeons — ophthalmologists specialising in children — to address a specific waiting list need in the SDHB region.

Mr Govind said the board was not alone in facing issues over ophthalmology waiting lists, and Sequre was negotiating with a North Island DHB to clear a backlog of cases much larger than that in the South.

"The SDHB is responsible for getting the patients in — that information is held by them, not us, as they know who the patients who need to be seen urgently are," Mr Govind said.

"We also work together on how they can be more efficient: for example, if they give us patients who are like this, we will be able to get through them a lot faster than a patient with a different problem who should be seen during the week by their specialist.

"We work in a very close partnership," Mr Govind said.

SDHB specialist services executive director Patrick Ng said Sequre was assisting the organisation to stay on top of current volumes by working with its own team to run weekend clinics.

The SDHB had either implemented or made progress on most of the recommendations from the external review into its ophthalmology services, Mr Ng said yesterday.

"We are working through changes to the manner in which we will manage follow-up appointments in the future, in order to be able to sustainably manage high volumes that are anticipated to increase further over time," Mr Ng said yesterday.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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