MPs ask minister to look into waiting times

BOWEL cancer screening referrals in Shoalhaven will be examined as the hospital struggles to cope with demand.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock made the request on Friday after two Shoalhaven residents featured in the Register in relation to extended waiting times for colonoscopies and endoscopies.

The MPs asked Health Minister Jillian Skinner to request the audit to ensure all patients were being managed appropriately.

“However can I emphasise that anyone experiencing problems with the hospital should feel free to raise them with local state members so we can address any issues with the health district,” Mr Ward said.

“If we don’t know about the problems it’s very difficult to help.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chief executive Sue Browbank directed patients with concerns relating to their health care to contact their doctor or the hospital in the first instance.

She also said increased screening for bowel diseases had resulted in a steep rise in the number of colonoscopies requested by specialists.

“Shoalhaven routinely does about 100 scopes a month which are scheduled based on clinical urgency determined by the specialist,” she said.

However the specialists of two Shoalhaven patients last week requested procedures in less than 30 days but the hospital’s earliest available time slot was about five months later.

Ms Browbank said scopes at Shoalhaven were undertaken in operating theatres that are also used for elective surgeries.

As a short-term measure the health district signed a contract with a private facility in Milton to perform 150 additional scopes.

So far 62 additional patients have had procedures.

In early April, a request for more resources was approved by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

The approval included $600,000 for new equipment, due on site in a few weeks, and the recruitment of a full-time specialist gastroenterologist to work in the Shoalhaven.

According to a spokesperson for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District the recruitment was being finalised.

Ms Browbank said she had requested an audit for all endoscopy referrals. 

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