Some hope of progress on endoscopy revamp

Dunedin Hospital might be a step closer to getting a revamped endoscopy suite, according to its gastroenterology clinical leader, but board management is tight-lipped about the matter.

In a recent interview, Dr Jason Hill indicated he expected the upgrade would happen before the end of this year.

Agreement had been reached with the University of Otago to extend the space occupied by the service on the eighth floor of the hospital, he said.

At the moment, the extra space is used by university staff.

The proposed new suite would have two and a-half procedure rooms, compared with the single room in the existing set-up.

Two of the rooms would be used for endoscopies and the use of the smaller room would include preparatory procedures, he said.

Board executive director of patient services Lexie O'Shea responded to further questions about any upgrade with a one-sentence emailed response saying the project was in its early stages ''and we are scoping out opportunities''.

Concern about the inadequacy of the existing unit has been raised since 1995 with a variety of proposals failing to get past the drawing board.

In June last year, a group of prominent current and former clinicians, headed by Emeritus Prof Gil Barbezat, from the Gastrointestinal Diseases Centre (GIDC) establishment board, went public about their concerns about the lack of progress on the matter.

Although they acknowledged improvements were being made to the service, they said it defied belief that Dunedin had the poorest major facility charged with diagnosing colorectal cancer in New Zealand and continued to have its ''well-defined needs ignored after nearly 20 years''.

Prof Barbezat said last month while the compromise outlined by Dr Hill was short of the originally planned GIDC, if it came to fruition, it would be a significant advance with the potential to provide a much better endoscopy service to the community.

Hopefully, it would also provide a better training facility for the Medical School and the DHB.

Dr Hill said he had always been confident the facility would be upgraded, but when he had come to Southern from Hamilton in 2012, he made a commitment to improve the service regardless of spending on an upgrade.

You could deliver colonoscopies ''in a car park in a tent'' with a superb team, he said.

He was proud of the work his team had done to improve access to the colonoscopy service so almost 100% of patients referred for both urgent and non-urgent procedures (including surveillance colonoscopies) now received them within the recommended times.

Considerable work was also being done to improve the referral process so the electronic template used asked general practitioners for the relevant information, consistent with the national guidelines.

The team had also conducted an audit of 767 cases where surveillance colonoscopy might have been deferred or denied in Otago between 2007 and 2011.

He was unaware of any other board where there had been or still was a variance in colonoscopy provision, compared with national guidelines, that had done such an investigation.

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