An extensive report compiled by a three-person panel has concluded that removing neurosurgery services from Dunedin would pose too great a risk to patient safety. Following months of speculation and protests, this report preceded the Ministry of Health's final decision to keep Dunedin in the neurosurgery pool.
The South island currently has six neurosurgeons. With Dunedin in the picture, this number will increase to eight.
The panel, which was led by Dr. Anne Kolbe, further outlined a need for upgraded and enhanced services. It drew its conclusions based on patient safety and cost. It estimated that an additional $3 million would be needed in order to centralise the service. This is primarily related to transportation costs.
As part of the changes, the panel wants to establish a professorship at Dunedin, allowing it to evolve into a centre for neurosurgical excellence in New Zealand. A professor of neurosurgery at Dunedin Hospital would have academic links to the Otago University Medical School.
One Dunedin neurosurgeon, Dr. Mike Hunter, said the service would require a lot of work to keep it robust, and that the quality of the service depended significantly on the capabilities of individual people.
Dunedin's retention of neurosurgery represents a victory for Otago and Southland, who have strengthened their newly merged DHB through months of united protest, petition and pressure on the Government.