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The Southern District Health Board yesterday voted to develop a business case for a new scanner, to be sent to Treasury for consideration.
There are six CT scanners in the region; publicly operated machines at Lakes and Southland Hospitals, privately operated machines in Oamaru and Dunedin, and two scanners at Dunedin Hospital.
Of those, one is dedicated to oncology cases, while the other is severely overworked and there is a long waiting list.
More than 750 Dunedin patients are waiting for scans, for an average of 76 days.
SDHB board member Lyndell Kelly, an oncologist, said those chronic delays meant doctors were unable to make diagnoses and patients were therefore missing out on treatment.
‘‘A lack of CT scanning has enormous ramifications throughout the whole DHB,’’ she said.
‘‘We have patients waiting in bed for CT scans, we can’t do anything until a diagnosis is made, and everything gets slowed down and made more complicated, and people get sicker while waiting.
‘‘This is a fundamental service which should be available.’’
The long waiting lists had created a culture of ‘‘don’t even ask’’ when it came to CT scanning, Dr Kelly said.
‘‘It is inefficient and dangerous.’’
SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said while it was desirable, an extra scanner was not budgeted for and a new machine would come with questions for the cash-strapped organisation about where to put it and how to afford the staff to operate it.
‘‘Yes, there will be theoretical savings but the costs of implementing it are not theoretical costs and they are unbudgeted ... it is the right thing to do, but I would caution that it will require cold, hard cash out of someone else’s budget.’’
Crown monitor Andrew Connolly said CT scanning was a critical diagnostic tool, and for the SDHB not to have adequate resources meant even simple conditions could not be properly recognised and treated.
‘‘I think there is a compelling case for a second scanner.’’
Board member Tuari Potiki endorsed making a case for a new scanner, noting a Ministry of Health report which said Dunedin had needed an extra machine since 2014.
As well as approving drafting a business case, the board asked staff to advance efforts to tackle Dunedin waiting lists by sending patients elsewhere for scans.