Delays spark extra resources

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THE Southern District Health Board (SDHB) says it has boosted staff and resources in the ophthalmology department at Southland Hospital after being ‘‘overwhelmed’’ by patients.
Four patients were adversely affected by ophthalmology delays at the hospital, the board’s 2014›15 serious adverse event report released last month said.
Two patients in their 20s were also adversely affected, but as their issues were in the current financial year their cases were not included in the report.
Koby Brown (22) hassled Southland Hospital for his overdue ophthal› mology appointment because his eyes were hurting. What he didn’t realise was he had permanently lost the sight in one eye. ‘‘I went to a doctor and they told me I was blind. I didn’t realise it — the left eye had been compensating for the right one.’’ Diagnosed about three years ago with juvenile glaucoma, a hereditary condition, the forestry worker was supposed to be checked by a specialist every six months. But he said staff told him to be ‘‘patient’’ because the hospital was busy. He was given no date for an appointment, and had to push to be seen. By the time he got an appointment, in September, it had been about 10 months since the previous one. ‘‘I used a few colourful words [at the time]. I wasn’t very impressed about it all, and I’m still not very impressed about it, but there’s not much I can do about it now.’’ He has been cleared to return to work but has been unable to yet because of severe discomfort in his right eye.
The board has apologised to Mr Brown, for whom the episode exacted a financial toll.
‘‘I do have a mortgage to pay.’’
In an Official Information Act response last year, the board acknowledged the sight loss in the younger patients might have been prevented if their care had been adequate.
Last month, acting chief medical officer Richard Bunton said externally›led investiga› tions were under way into Mr Brown and the other younger patient’s cases, and the depart› ment now had more staff and support.
The four older patients suffered vision loss after delays in treatment when too few appointments were available, the serious adverse event report said.
‘‘Team members elevated issues to mana› gers, but there was an acceptance that because of resource constraints, improve› ments would be difficult,’’ the report said.

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