Waiting lists are growing

Patrick Ng.
Patrick Ng
The Southern District Health Board’s (SDHB) waiting lists for radiation oncology treatment are growing again.

In June waiting times for the potentially life-saving therapy became acute, with some people having to wait more than twice the the time of the Ministry of Health’s accepted guidelines before they received treatment.

A SDHB commissioners meeting yesterday was told while waiting lists were growing, waiting times for treatment remained within agreed limits.

However, specialist services director Patrick Ng said the growing waiting list was a concern and being watched closely.

"Our wait list is higher than it has been historically but wait times are within indicated wait times; for priority 2 patients the indicated wait time is two weeks and we are currently averaging nine days," Mr Ng said.

"We are staying on top of indicated wait times in terms of treating and seeing patients for a first appointment, but the number of patients is higher."

The wait list had grown despite an additional locum radiation oncologist being in place since March; over the past two years patient volume had grown by about 15%.

Doctors from Canterbury — who were called upon to help cut the waiting five months ago — were still being used to treat SDHB patients, and a new resident medical officer had just joined the service, Mr Ng said.

"We are about to do a re-plan with the clinical leader and the service just to make sure that we manage as best we can, because we are facing quite high demand for the service."

One of the reasons why the waiting lists had blown out was that the SDHB maintained a regular level of surgery last January, rather than reducing hours for the holiday period.

That meant more cancers had been detected, which by extension meant more cancer treatment was needed than expected.

With the SDHB again planning to offer normal surgery numbers this January, deputy commissioner Richard Thomson sought assurance that the same problem would not recur next year.

"We intend to use what capacity we can, the new RMO will offer new capacity and we are still looking for local support," Mr Ng said.

"We are very cognisant of the potential to have challenges going in to next year."

SDHB chief medical officer Nigel Millar said the service had not dealt with many more cancer cases than usual in the past year, but had had many of them all at the same time.

"We need to find a way to smooth them out, rather that having to deal with them all at the end of February."

Mr Ng said the Dunedin Hospital oncology service also hoped to create six additional chair spaces for chemotherapy and build four new clinic rooms.

The $230,000 capital expenditure needed had been put forward for approval, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Ng said staff had completed a report on what to do with substandard buildings housing mental health facilities at Wakari Hospital.

"The level of investment required to bring the facilities up to contemporary practice standards is significant and we are working through the most appropriate next steps," Mr Ng said.

"Further activity will be undertaken through the business case development which will occur in 2020."

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter