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Review of surgery at Wairau Hospital

Last updated 15:48 28/01/2013

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Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chairwoman Jenny Black has assured Marlborough people that the health board's review of  orthopaedic and general surgery at Wairau Hospital, in Blenhieim, does not include removing these services.

The Marlborough Express reported that one of the options being considered by the health board under the review was removing orthopaedic and general surgery from the hospital. This was based on a report in the publicly distributed agenda paper for the board meeting tomorrow.

However, Ms Black was adamant today that these surgical services would not be removed.

The health board's medical surgical directorate had put forward a range of options for staff to comment on, she said.

"The key features the board are looking for in our surgical services for Marlborough are safe, high quality and sustainable surgery.

"The option paper, used to get discussion started, included elective-only surgery at Wairau Hospital through to more resources being made available to these specialties for a sustainable surgical service in Blenheim."

Staff had until February 28 to comment on options and from that, a proposal would be developed to go before the board by the end of March. Formal consultation would be done with public and stakeholders between April and May with a final decision on orthopaedic and general surgery model of service made in June.

Acting board chief executive Mike Cummins says any change could take affect from as early as June, as the financially-strained board tries to recover from a $1.2 million deficit reported in December.

Mr Cummins' comments come in a key report prepared for a public meeting being held by the board in Nelson tomorrow.

It is exploring options from offering elective surgery only at Wairau Hospital to increasing spending on both non-urgent elective and life-saving acute surgery.

Orthopaedic surgery involves surgery of the joints, bones, ligaments and soft tissue while general surgery involves most areas, including head, neck, abdomen and limbs.

Mr Cummins said duplication of surgical services between Wairau and Nelson hospitals and financial pressures were the main drivers of the review.

"The discussion will create a level of concern across the district, particularly in Marlborough," he said.

Elected board member John Inder, of Blenheim, said all services were being looked at as the board tried to get its books back in the black.

"The investigation and decisions will be of major concern to the Marlborough community.

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"There are possibly big implications for Marlborough people, but it is important to remember this is only a discussion paper - no decisions have been made yet."

A report from corporate services manager Nick Lanigan at the end of December showed the board was running a deficit of $1.2m, $643,000 behind budget.

Last week, the board handed hospital staff a discussion paper that floated the idea of integrating Wairau and Nelson hospitals' surgical services and asked for feedback by February 28.

Consultation with the main stakeholders, including staff organisations, other health providers and local authorities, as well as the general public would run throughout April and May.

A final decision would be made in May to June, and changes made from June onwards.

In his report Mr Cummins denies the process is related to "the well publicised issue relating to a general surgeon in Wairau Hospital". It was about safe care, not saving money, he said. "In fact the final outcome may require significant investment by the board."

Mr Cummins said the review would consider impacts on other services at Wairau Hospital, private provider Marlborough Orthopaedics and the Churchill Trust private hospital.

It would also look at transport and cost implications for patients and their families.

Two weeks ago board executive leadership team member and Blenheim GP Ros Gellatly told the Marlborough Express the review was triggered by investigations into patient deaths following surgery at Wairau Hospital, and tight finances.

The police, Health and Disability commissioner and coroner are investigating deaths and unexpected outcomes following operations by stood-down Wairau Hospital surgeon Michael Parry.

- The Nelson Mail

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