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The Southern District Health Board repeatedly promised to rectify issues with Dunedin Hospital’s radiology department but continually failed to do so, a newly released report says.
Last month, International Accreditation New Zealand - a Crown entity which audits laboratories and inspection bodies and certifies their competence - refused accreditation for Dunedin Hospital’s radiology department.
The IANZ report to the SDHB - released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act - paints a picture of repeated assurances made after previous audits that problems would be fixed, but problems remaining unresolved.
"IANZ had repeatedly been provided with ‘plans’ which have either been discarded once clearance had been granted in good faith by IANZ assessors, or delayed indefinitely with no clear completion timelines," the report said.
"IANZ recognises the challenges faced by this service, however reduction in acceptable levels of compliance requirements cannot occur, especially as diligence in ensuring that the clearance requirements were achievable and realistic, given the circumstances surrounding the service environment, was paramount."
The building housing radiology has major issues with leaking and asbestos.
IANZ said since last year’s assessment considerable progress had been made to address the problems, but asbestos mitigation work had not been finished or tested.
In addition, long-term contingency plans were not evident, and it was unclear if interim plans were current, applicable or approved.
IANZ also highlighted chronic waiting lists, staff shortages and outdated computer systems as problems besetting radiology.
Radiology was expected to maintain information systems which were fit for purpose, and the report again highlighted inaction in meeting previous IANZ requests for action.
After setting out numerous concerns about budgets and funding for the work - which is necessary because the current records system is about to become outdated - IANZ said there were significant concerns the magnitude of the project might not be apparent, and there was no evidence of consideration of the projected timescale.
The CT scanning service had been asked to address issues with waiting lists, increasing overtime and callbacks and deficiencies in service capacity.
IANZ said material from the SDHB did not provide ongoing planning or long-term solutions.
"A business case had been submitted to address some of these issues, which had been effectively rejected with no evidence of ongoing permanent solutions," the report said.
"Stress levels for staff had increased, with evidence of instances whereby leave was required for staff under duress in order to mitigate any potential performance/clinical risk."
Radiology can operate without accreditation, but the loss of status means Dunedin Hospital is unable to claim revenue from ACC work.
When the department lost its status, SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said work was almost under way to address air handling issues, and back-up arrangements had been put in place in case of equipment failure.
The SDHB is negotiating a contract to extend support for the information systems and also trying to reduce waiting lists.
The SDHB has said it was confident of regaining accredited status by June.