National implications in urology report

A damning report of Southern District Health Board urology services has national as well as regional implications, the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand says.

A week ago, the health and disability commissioner released an own-instigation report into urology services in the South, following 38 complaints in the space of a few months.

The report highlighted major issues with management of the service and prioritisation of its waiting lists, and found several patients had had their life expectancies lowered due to inappropriate care of their urological conditions.

USANZ president Stephen Mark said that the commissioner's recommendations were a message to all DHBs to ensure urology services were appropriately resourced.

"The report shines a spotlight on the DHB's management inadequacies in responding to demand for necessary resources," Dr Mark said.

"I hope that health services across the country will comply with the recommended guidelines to ensure the allocation of adequate personnel and resources.

"This is an opportunity to learn from what happened in Dunedin and to ensure it never occurs again."

One of the initiatives the SDHB put in place following a 2017 external review of the service were a series of "super clinics" to tackle huge waiting lists for specialist appointments and surgeries.

Dr Mark, who helped lead the clinics, said patients had previously been let down by the service but he had been impressed by the subsequent commitment to patient care to help resolve what had become a crisis in the system.

The SDHB last week acknowledged the failings that led to unacceptable care being provided to patients in its urology service, and unreservedly apologised.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said the commissioner's report was distressing.

"Medical specialists regularly raised concerns about waiting times and the lack of capacity within the service, but they fell on deaf ears," ASMS executive director Ian Powell said.

"It should serve as a broad reminder to DHB management to listen when specialists raise concerns."

Specialists had a duty to raise concerns over risks to patient safety, and health administrators had a similar duty to act promptly when they do so in order to address any such issues, Dr Powell said.

"Until such time as DHB bosses take these concerns more seriously, these sorts of tragedies are going to get worse."

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