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'Flawed proposal' to cut Auckland sexual health specialists

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

"People already struggling to access sexual health treatment in the Auckland region could face even more of an uphill battle if changes to the sexual health service proposed by Auckland District Health Board bosses go ahead," says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS). "The DHB managers who think cutting the number of hospital specialists in the sexual health service is a good idea at a time when rates of HIV and syphilis are on the rise really need to front up to some hard questions.

"The senior doctors working in the regional sexual health service are telling ASMS that it’s just going to make it harder for some groups in the population to get the treatment they need, as well as raising questions about the future safety of the service for both doctors and patients."

He was commenting on reports that Auckland District Health Board is proposing to cut the number of sexual health specialists in the city at a time when the rates of HIV and syphilis infections are rising ( "The proposed changes have all the hallmarks of a hastily cobbled together cost-cutting exercise without any real consultation with the people currently providing the sexual health service, or evaluation of the likely impact on the community," says Mr Powell.

"This review should have been clinically-led from the start to make sure patients remain at the heart of any changes, but instead hospital specialists have been marginalised in this whole process. They have presented their concerns to the DHB’s management but are wondering how much of the eventual decision has already been determined."

He says international best practice indicates that one medical specialist is needed per 100,000 population but, under the Auckland DHB’s proposal, the region would have just one specialist per 500,000 people. "Specialists work very closely with nurses and other health professionals to provide quality treatment and care, and any significant changes to that mix of skill and expertise within the service should only occur if it’s clinically required."

Mr Powell says ASMS has worked with senior doctors in the sexual health service to respond to Auckland DHB’s initial proposal, and is now awaiting a response.

"We expect the DHB to take on board the concerns these highly trained, dedicated specialists have made about the risks to patient safety and the effectiveness of the service if the DHB’s plans proceed.

"What Auckland health bosses are planning is straight-out cost cutting masquerading as a so-called model of care. Let’s not kid ourselves that it is anything more than this."

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