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Action not intimidation will fix Dunedin’s Emergency Dept

Media release

Action not intimidation will fix Dunedin’s Emergency Department

The New Zealand Faculty of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) expresses its strong support for its member Dr John Chambers in relation to the proposed disciplinary action made against him by Southern District Health Board.

Dr Chambers was issued with a formal first warning by the Dunedin Hospital Board following an interview he carried out with the Otago Daily Times several months ago.

In the interview Dr Chambers answered questions regarding the Dunedin Hospital emergency department and expressed concern about the withdrawal of promised – and much needed – funding for the allocation of additional emergency specialists.

“The Faculty is extremely concerned that such a well-respected senior doctor with so many years of service to the Otago community has been made a target of blatant intimidation,” said Dr John Bonning, Chair of the New Zealand Faculty of ACEM.

“In relation to this issue we regard any form of disciplinary action against Dr Chambers as unacceptable.”

The Faculty notes that Dr Chambers spoke in his capacity as a senior member of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), not as a Dunedin Hospital employee. Contributing to an ongoing public debate is not only well within Dr Chambers’ rights as a member of the ASMS, but also part of his duty as a medical professional whose chief concern is the wellbeing of the Otago public.

As a former clinical director of the Dunedin Hospital ED, an active leader in the ED college and current ASMS Vice President for the Otago branch, Dr Chambers’ ability to comment on the situation in an informed and professional manner is beyond question.

The Faculty wishes to stress that since the resignation of Dr Tim Kerruish in March 2012 due to the withdrawal of funding issue, the Southern District Health Board has made no effort to find a new clinical leader for the Dunedin Hospital ED.

“Attempting to intimidate or silence emergency medicine specialists who engage in public debate is an unacceptable practice that will only hinder the overall goal of better patient care,” said Dr Bonning.

The New Zealand Faculty of ACEM proudly acknowledges Dr Chambers’ record as an emergency physician demonstrating the highest standards of professional conduct for over 20 years and calls on the Southern District Health Board to withdraw the proposed disciplinary action immediately.

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