Travel time worried many submitters

A third of the 2256 submissions to the expert panel looking at neurosurgery services in the South expressed concern about having to travel to Christchurch for neurosurgery.

Almost all submissions came from the Southern District Health Board area, with less than 2% from outside the area.

About 58% of the 2193 submitters were from people living in the Dunedin area.

Submissions from Invercargill made up 3.8% of the total.

Of the towns, the largest number came from Oamaru (5.8%), with 1.5% from Queenstown.

The common themes identified in the submissions concerned patients being more at risk from a one-site proposal, travel time to Christchurch, unfairness that people from the southern area should have more risk than people in the rest of the country, and the flow-on effects of the change.

Almost all of the submissions were from individual members of the public and about 87% of the total number were not connected to the health sector workforce.

A fifth of the submissions mentioned the need for the support of family and friends when the patient was in hospital and the benefit of this to the patient.

A similar number referred to the need for quick intervention to treat brain injuries in order to ensure the best clinical outcome.

More than a third also noted a move to Christchurch signalled a downgrading of health services for those in Otago and Southland and almost a quarter of submitters had concerns about Dunedin being downgraded or undermined as a medical training centre.

More than a fifth of submitters considered a one-site proposal would be unfair to Otago and Southland people.

Some said that as equal taxpayers people in the Southern area should have the same access to services and be exposed to the same level of risk as those living in other parts of the country.

Some also referred to the South's contribution to the overall New Zealand economy through farming and industry, suggesting this should justify access to health care on par with the rest of the country.

Some also expressed concern that the Government often made decisions negatively affecting those in the South and the proposal was part of a wider trend.

About 5% of the submitters identified themselves as previous National Party voters.

Some expressed disappointment that a National Government might be responsible for changes to downgrade or take away neurosurgery from Dunedin.

Others implied or stated that they would be " unlikely to vote National in future should this occur", the separate report summarising the public feedback said.

In the main report the panel said the political consequences comments were viewed as a symptom of the "various agendas at play in an issue like this, and did not influence deliberations".

Submissions in support of the proposed one-site model were scarce (0.4%), with most coming from clinicians, some of them retired.

Among the points they made was the need for clinicians to have down time so they did not burn out, and that a minimum of three surgeons was needed for a unit.

Also, the medical school had self-interest at play and did not listen to the arguments around the need for large caseloads to maintain clinical expertise.

They pointed out that people on the West Coast already had to travel to Christchurch to receive specialist care.

- elspeth.mclean@odt.co.nz

 

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