Panel in South for five days

The panel on South Island neurosurgical services will visit Dunedin, Christchurch and Invercargill at the end of the month.

Chairwoman Anne Kolbe announced yesterday the panel would visit the southern cities from Monday, August 30, to Friday, September 3.

While time was limited because people deserved a rapid conclusion to the issue, the panel would ensure people had the chance to make a constructive contribution to the process, Mrs Kolbe said in a letter being sent to all South Island district health board chairmen and chief executives.

The panel would attend the Southern District Health Board meeting in Invercargill on September 2, an ideal opportunity to talk to the board and to Southland-based clinicians.

"As the board meeting is public, we'd be keen to engage with those members of the public [at] that meeting as well."

Mrs Kolbe expected to meet the editors of the Otago Daily Times and The Southland Times, who had taken an advocacy role on the issue.

The letter said one of the organisers of the Keep Neurosurgery in Dunedin Facebook campaign had approached the panel to present a summary of the views of the many people who had posted on the page.

"We would welcome that. We are conscious that we must offer the same opportunities to communities in other parts of the island and we will do that."

Visits to other centres might involve the full panel or individual members: Mrs Kolbe, Adelaide neurosurgeon Glen McCulloch and consumer advocate David Russell.

Mrs Kolbe said the process was iterative: "We will need to test suggestions from the boards, clinicians and community as we go through, so we will not only be visiting people, but we will be looking to engage in ongoing discussion as we develop and test ideas."

Mrs Kolbe repeated her earlier indications the panel had no view on the best format for the future service.

She listed seven areas upon which the panel would focus.

She asked the chairmen and chief executives to indicate as soon as possible with whom and which bodies they wished the panel to interact.

She emphasised she was keen to hear clinicians' views, because it was a a great opportunity for clinical leadership to be shown.

"This should not be interpreted as meaning hospital-based clinicians only. We are, for example, interested in talking to primary care clinicians, those involved in transporting patients and those involved in the rehabilitation of patients."

Constructive community input was also sought. This would include discussions with the southern mayors - who have already expressed their views by letter - and the panel would offer the same opportunity to the other South Island mayors.

"We are really keen to hear the public view and will look for their assistance in arranging constructive ways to involve the public in building the future service."

Co-organiser of the Facebook campaign on the issue, Associate Prof Sam Mann, said he was pleased the panel had recognised the strength of community interest.

The group wanted to present the many stories to the panel and wanted to come up with its own "community terms of reference", against which the panel could measure any models with which it might come up.

Southern chairman Errol Millar and chief executive Brian Rousseau could not be reached for comment last night.


> Service to the community: In a relatively sparsely populated geographically diverse island, how to ensure safe access to a quality service for all.

> Sustainable configuration: Involves location/locations, delivery of acute services, sub-specialisation, linkages to other hospitals and health providers, adequate cover and staffing structures.

> Linkages to other specialties, medical schools and training programmes.

> Clinical leadership: Providing a clearly defined leadership structure to build the service, providing continuity and succession planning.

> Leadership and operation of a South Island service: Looking at management, leadership and employment arrangements and governance to provide the best representation and involvement across the island with minimum opportunity for conflict.

> Funding arrangements for an equitable, sustainable service with minimal conflict between regions.

> Implementation of whatever the panel recommends: How will it happen and how long will it take.


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