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Northland Needs 24-hour Surgical Services

Monday 17 Jun 2002

"The suspension and threatened withdrawal of 24-hour surgical services at Kaitaia hospital is clearly the thin edge of the wedge as the Government's centralised plan unfolds", says ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Ken Shirley.

"At a public meeting in Kaitaia today I heard the emotional outpourings of over 1000 people all seeking a sustained future for their hospital. There is a clear need for 24 hour surgical services based on the expanding economy of Northland with significant expansion of the tourist and forestry sectors in particular. If 24-hour surgical services are cut then there will be a domino effect with maternity services also being withdrawn, as they cannot operate without the 24-hour surgical backup.

"A recent illustration of the overly centralised model recently occurred a young boy was admitted to Kaitaia hospital by his GP with appendicitis at 5 pm on a Friday. The local surgeon and anaesthetist both wanted to operate but were prevented by DHB rules banning after hours surgery in Kaitaia. The boy waited for over 12 hours before being flown by helicopter to Whangarei hospital the next day. By this time his appendix had burst and he was gravely ill. Following surgery he required intensive care.

"The DHB now says that they cannot have after hours surgery in Kaitaia because there is no intensive care facility. The point is that his life would not have been threatened and he would not have required postoperative intensive care if the doctors in Kaitaia were not prevented from operating by inflexible rules imposed by the DHB based in Whangarei.

"Communities such as Kaitaia desperately require more self-determination so that sensible health decisions can be taken," concluded Mr Shirley.


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