Wellington cancer specialist 'too dear' to keep

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The locum hired by Wellington Hospital to fill in when its last child cancer specialist left is now also departing.

Paediatrician Lewis Ingram's contract has ended and he will return to Britain. He began working for Capital and Coast District Health Board in January, to fill a gap left by departing paediatric oncologist Anne Mitchell.

He was appointed with the possibility of staying an extra three months and is registered to work here till the end of July.

Two new child cancer specialists are due to begin in October.

The board says it will use another hospital paediatrician to fill the gap left by Dr Ingram till then.

A worried parent who contacted The Dominion Post said he had told her it was too expensive for the board to keep paying his accommodation costs and wages.

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"He said, `It's not that I want to go, it's just the fact they have decided it's too expensive'.

"He was here short-term, we realise that. But I thought he was here for six months."

Another mother said she, too, had understood he would be here for a further three months.

"It's like we're back to square one again."

Capital and Coast clinical director of child health Graeme Lear said the board had considered extending Dr Ingram's contract but decided to cover his position by using an existing Wellington Hospital paediatrician. He had helped the hospital get through a transition period.

Though employing Dr Ingram had been "very pricey" - the board paid for him to stay in an apartment and provided a vehicle - funding was not behind the decision.

Dr Lear said parents of child cancer patients would notice little difference. Neither Dr Ingram nor the paediatrician who would step into his role were paediatric oncologists, though they had an interest in oncology. He understood parents felt anxious.

Wellington's child cancer service had been a secondary service rather than a tertiary (advanced) one while Dr Ingram had worked there. It would continue to be so till paediatric oncologists Christian Kratz and Mwe Mwe Chao arrived from Germany in October. Complicated procedures and treatments would continue to be provided at Christchurch or Auckland hospitals till then.

 

The Dominion Post