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Ryall Deflects Questions On Neurosurgery Intervention

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

By Matthew Backhouse of NZPA

Wellington, Aug 18 NZPA - Health Minister Tony Ryall today deflected questions over whether he would intervene in the future of neurosurgical services in the South Island.

Both Christchurch and Dunedin provide neurosurgical services, but with the five South Island district health boards (DHBs) agreeing they would be best served by one unit, one of the hospitals will be forced to drop the service.

The Director General of Health established an expert panel to consider the issue after the DHBs could not come to a consensus. It will report back by October.

Labour's Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson today questioned Mr Ryall in Parliament over whether he would make a final decision on the matter if a consensus could not be reached.

He also questioned Mr Ryall's accountability, saying he had declined to become involved in "one of the most important decisions his portfolio faces".

Mr Ryall agreed it was an important issue, but deflected questions over what he would do if a consensus could not be reached, saying that was "hypothetical".

The DHBs had asked for the Director General of Health to arbitrate, "which indicates that they will stand by that decision".

Dunedin's neurosurgical unit had a long history of challenges, with three neurosurgeons leaving between 2006 and 2008 while Labour was in power, Mr Ryall said.

It had kept up its services by using locums and relying on the support of Christchurch Hospital.

"I think everybody in this process would want to ensure that there is a safe and reliable service for the people of Otago-Southland and the rest of the South Island."

Earlier this month, about 10,000 people marched against the potential loss of the Dunedin unit, including Mr Hodgson, Dunedin mayor Peter Chin, and Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt.

Neurosurgery is the medical speciality concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.

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