Gastroenterology Society offers help with colonoscopy demand

The New Zealand Gastroenterology Society has offered to help Southern District Health Board staff cope with any extra demand for colonoscopy resulting from recent changes to the referral process.

Board chief executive Chris Fleming said yesterday the offer came from society president Dr Malcolm Arnold, of Hawke's Bay, this week.

Extra colonoscopies may result from Southland surgeons' ability to override the criteria applied to colonoscopy referrals where they consider it clinically warranted.

It is that possible backlog the society has offered to help with.

Concerns from the surgeons that their inability to override referral criteria was resulting in patient harm led to the recent damning review of the gastroenterology service from general surgeon Phil Bagshaw and gastroenterologist Steven Ding.

The society's offer comes a week after its executive sent a hard-hitting letter to the board, airing the society's views of the concerns raised in the Bagshaw/Ding report.

Among them was that the environment for some trainees at Dunedin Hospital was unsafe and some junior doctors reported being ''broken'' by their time at the gastroenterology department.

The executive also gave its view of the '' toxic culture'' for staff in the gastroenterology department, the over-rationing of colonoscopy leading to patient harm, and the breakdown in the relationship between the gastroenterology department and general surgery.

Mr Fleming said some behaviours described were ''quite horrible'' and all came back to the culture.

''We just have to blow these issues out of the water.''

Regarding allegations of bullying, people who had specific complaints needed to ''stand up'' so matters could be dealt with.

He acknowledged it was difficult for junior medical staff, because they might be concerned that speaking out could influence their future.

Dr Arnold is also the person leading the review of 102 cases where Southland clinicians had raised concerns.

Mr Fleming said that review would begin soon.

The review would look at these cases to find out if further follow-up was needed.

It was not a matter of re-litigating what Mr Bagshaw had done, he said.

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