Report on verge of delivery

The South Island Neurosurgical Service expert panel hopes to deliver its final report to acting Director-general of Health Andrew Bridgman before the end of this week, panel chairwoman Anne Kolbe says.

The top-secret report on the future set-up of neurosurgery in the South was to have been in his hands at the end of last week, but that would not have allowed the South Island district health boards the full three working days to check the draft for accuracy that were specified in the panel's terms of reference.

Mrs Kolbe said it appeared that the size of the file, released electronically on Friday evening in confidence to the boards for fact checking, had caused a problem, with some of the boards not receiving it.

That meant the time for checking had to be slightly extended.

Southern District Health Board chairman Errol Millar and chief executive Brian Rousseau yesterday confirmed they had checked the report over the weekend and made submissions on Monday on what Mr Rousseau described as "a small number of minor matters".

Mrs Kolbe said those boards who had replied had not asked for significant alterations, with the general feedback so far suggesting the panel had the "facts right, as opposed to the recommendation".

The panel, which also involves Adelaide neurosurgeon Glenn McCulloch and David Russell, was working hard to incorporate the feedback received.

Mrs Kolbe said the panel knew that communities and the district health boards and clinicians did not want to be "left hanging" any longer over the issue and the panel had been as careful as it could to produce a report that would allow Mr Bridgman to make a decision without him having to ask for further reports.

The panel's report becomes public only once Mr Bridgman announces his decision.

Mrs Kolbe said she could understand the impatience of people in the South Island to hear that decision.

While there had been no indication of when his decision might be, Mrs Kolbe said Mr Bridgman was "very much aware" of how South Islanders felt about the issue and he was a "compassionate and thoughtful man".

Everybody involved with the process was working as hard as possible, she said, praising the work of staff at the national business unit in the Ministry of Health.

Mrs Kolbe had been heartened by the respectful and thoughtful way that so many people had "unemotively" and sensibly stated the issues from their perspective.

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