5 Dec 2016

Fears staff cuts will lead to further jumps in STI rates in Auckland

5:00 pm on 5 December 2016

A sexual health specialist is warning Auckland District Health Board's plans to cut the number of specialists by a third could lead to further rises in HIV and syphilis cases.

A 3d rendered illustration of HIV.

A 3d rendered illustration of HIV. Photo: 123rf

Dr Rick Franklin said the DHB's plans to reduce the number of specialists and increase the number of nurses appeared to be due to cost-saving.

He called it a foolish move, at a time when cases of syphilis jumped by 71 percent in Auckland between 2013 and 2015 and HIV had increased nationally every year since 2011.

The cuts would hit the most vulnerable people the hardest, Dr Franklin said.

"Youth, people with those infections we've been talking about, things like syphillis, HIV. The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, all these people don't have a lot of the possibilities of access so if you reduce one of the main areas of access, that's really going to impact."

Dr Franklin was particularly concerned about transgender health. There was a process in place to deliver a more regionally delivered transgender service in Auckland and he hoped it would get off the ground and deliver good care, but it was not functioning yet.

He said the short term implications of the cuts would be reduced access for many people with infections and the worst case scenario long term would be increased infection rates.

Dr Franklin said the DHB had not consulted properly with the primary care services, which were expected to take up the slack under its proposal.

He said many of the specialists' suggestions to the DHB had either been ignored or taken on board late.

Dr Franklin said the underfunding of sexual health nationally was a disgrace.

Auckland DHB said it was consulting on the issue and no decisions had been made.

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