SDHB urology service worst in NZ: expert

Chris Fleming.
Chris Fleming.
The Southern District Health Board’s urology service is the worst in New Zealand, a leading figure in the field says.

Chairman of the New Zealand section of the Urological Society of Australia Stephen Mark said a "culture of poor communication" between the DHB’s management had led to a situation where urology patients were waiting too long for assessment or treatment.

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming this week apologised to patients affected by delays in the DHB’s urology service.

The DHB was committed to making improvements and providing patients with certainty regarding their care, Mr Fleming said.

Dr Mark said the situation at the Southern DHB was worse than anywhere else in New Zealand.

There were patients who had been seen and were on the waiting list for treatment but did not have a treatment plan, which was an "inappropriate and inadequate" situation.

He had offered to help the DHB co-ordinate changes, but was yet to receive a reply.

He was disturbed by Mr Fleming’s public statements, which blamed clinicians for contributing to the problem.

"There is absolutely no question that any organisation that starts blaming its staff, that needs to have the staff delivering that care, is in trouble."

The DHB’s resourcing of both theatre and outpatients needed a "very close look  ... because the changes that have been implemented in other places are not able to  be implemented in Dunedin because of the systems they have."

Mr Fleming said the DHB’s priority was ensuring those patients who were awaiting prostate cancer surgery were treated as soon as possible.

"Currently 11 patients are awaiting prostate cancer surgery, eight in Dunedin and three in Southland.

"Their waiting times range from a week to six months," he said.

The Southern DHB was exploring options for ensuring they received surgery as soon as possible, including delivering the surgeries in-house, by contracting  the private sector or transferring patients to other DHBs.

"There are also instances where the delays for appointments within the urology service have been unacceptable, and we are working to resolve this with urgency," Mr Fleming said.

The DHB had also commissioned an external review of its urology service in response to staff concerns about resourcing levels and wider DHB concerns about the performance of the service.

He expected to receive a final copy of the review in the next couple of weeks,  after which it would be made public.

"If there is staffing issues there I will address them, but equally if there are process and performance issues I expect our staff will address them as well."


Oh, maybe we should all stop picking on the SDHB. After all, they cut their deficit last year making President English a bit happier.