10 Aug 2010

Panel 'open-minded' on neurosurgical services in south

2:07 pm on 10 August 2010

The chair of a panel set up to look at how the South Island's neurosurgical services can best be managed has published a letter in The Press saying it remains open-minded about what the service will look like.

The panel was set up after South Island District Health Boards split over whether all six South Island neurosurgeons should work from Christchurch, or whether two could be based in Dunedin.

Last week, in one of the biggest protests in Dunedin for decades, an estimated 10,000 people from Otago and Southland marched in support of retaining neurosurgeons in Dunedin, rather than centralising the service in Christchurch.

In her open letter on Tuesday, the chair of the South Island Neurosurgical Expert Panel, Anne Kolbe, thanked residents for making their views on the issue known.

She said nothing had yet been decided and the panel will spend as much as possible with South Island clinicians before it is.

"The one constant is that the South Island District Health Boards have agreed that neurosurgery will be run as one service (which is not an agreement to one site)," the letter said.

"Beyond that I want to listen to people's ideas about how to make it work."

Dr Kolbe says the panel has, at this point, no view on what the final configuration will look like.

While the three-person panel is yet to meet, Dr Kolbe visited DHB chiefs and others in Dunedin and Christchurch last week.

She told them they must think carefully about how they will present their ideas to the panel, and take a broad view in order to achieve a sustainable service.

The Health Ministry says it has the power to make a decision that's binding on the DHBs after the panel reports.