Neurosurgeon goal reiterated

Dunedin Hospital is still trying to recruit two new neurosurgeons, the Southern District Health Board says.

Dunedin’s neurosurgery needs have been covered by one doctor, Ahmad Taha, for about two and a-half years.

The city’s hospital is meant to have three neurosurgeons as part of a "two sites one service" model in collaboration with Christchurch Hospital, but since it was instituted 10 years ago, Dunedin has never had its full quota of neurosurgeons.

In October last year, the Neurological Foundation - which is not involved in the recruitment process - said it believed two candidates had been identified but their final appointment had been delayed by registration requirements and Covid-19.

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming told Parliament’s health select committee yesterday that no progress had been made as yet on securing either of the surgeons.

"We continue to be actively involved in the recruitment process between the DHB and the university."

Mr Fleming said the partnership between the Southern and Canterbury DHBs to manage the service was "outstanding".

National Party list MP Michael Woodhouse, of Dunedin, begged to differ, saying it was a "rose-tinted response" as no Canterbury surgeons had ever come to Dunedin to provide cover for Mr Taha, but Southern patients regularly had to travel to Christchurch for treatment.

"I would like to be as optimistic as you but I will be honest, I have a grave concern about the viability of the service and I am not convinced that Christchurch is adhering to the spirit and letter of the plan," Mr Woodhouse said.

"I want to be convinced otherwise, and the only way for there to be a fulcrum against that risk is to recruit those two clinical neurosurgeons."

Mr Fleming said the SDHB did want to recruit neurosurgeons, but it was not easy to find the right people with the right skills for the position.

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