Neurosurgery services under review

Neurosurgery services in the South Island are being assessed by an independent senior consultant from Nelson who will make a recommendation next year if services should be centralised in Christchurch or retained at more than one site.

Otago District Health Board chief medical officer Richard Bunton said the board was "heavily advocating" that a neurosurgery service be retained in Dunedin.

The consultant had been visiting neurosurgery services in Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin, and Invercargill and would be making a recommendation to the South Island health services planning group about how neurosurgery services should be delivered in the South Island.

The Dunedin service usually has two neurosurgeons, but one position has been vacant for the past two years and the other for the past year.

Uncertainty about future services made recruitment difficult, Mr Bunton said.

A position had been offered to an experienced, senior neurosurgeon based in Europe.

He would be a "very good person to have", but the board had to be honest about the situation and the neurosurgeon had to take that into consideration before making a decision on whether to accept the job.

"Currently, it is all a bit open."

Two more neurosurgeons were coming out to look at the position early next year.

A United Kingdom-based neurosurgeon who had been offered a job and was originally expected to start last November, decided to accept another job in the United Kingdom in August after prolonged medical registration and immigration delays.

There had not been too much difficulty getting locums in the meantime, Mr Bunton said.

Canterbury continued to provide cover when required, although that was needed only infrequently now, he said.

The Otago neurosurgery service deals with about 350 patients a year, including those from waiting lists and those needing urgent attention because of trauma or illness.

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