24/7 CT scans on way for Dunstan Hospital

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PAM JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz

An expanded CT scanning service at Dunstan Hospital will provide extensive benefits for the Central Otago community, hospital leaders say.

The scanner, staffed by in-house hospital radiographers, would start operating 24/7 by May, Central Otago Health Services Ltd (COHSL) manager Karyn Penno said.

Staff training was being done at present and the additional service would be introduced for no extra cost, Ms Penno said.

This was because Dunstan’s staff radiographers, who at present take X-rays, would receive additional training to operate the CT scanner. Those staff, who were already on call 24/7 to deliver emergency X-rays, would also be on call to carry out 24/7 emergency CT scans as well.

The 24/7 service was always part of COHSL’s business plan when the scanner was bought five years ago, and hospital leaders had been working towards that since then, Ms Penno said.

But the 24/7 service was also a recommendation of a coroner’s report released last week into the death of Wanaka man Warren Peter Bates.

Mr Bates fell down the stairs at his home in Wanaka on February 27, 2015, and was taken to Wanaka Medical Centre, then to Dunstan Hospital, early on February 28. He was later transferred to Dunedin Hospital but there were delays in the ambulance departing, for a variety of reasons, including no St John ambulance being available, and delays in Dunedin Hospital staff agreeing to Mr Bates’ transfer.

Mr Bates died in the ambulance on the way to Dunedin from “raised intracranial pressure due to an intracranial epidermoid cyst”. After his death, Mr Bates was found to have an undiagnosed large, benign brain tumour and the bleed from the fall raised the intracranial pressure.

The coroner’s report said Mr Bates’ death raised issues relating to the availability of medical facilities and resources at Dunstan Hospital, including the absence of 24/7 CT scanner services at Dunstan. It recommended the services be implemented.

It also recommended developing district-wide head injury management guidelines, and that organisations including Dunstan Hospital, St John, the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) and the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust work together to ensure the availability of sufficient transport options.

Ms Penno said Mr Bates’ death was “tragic” and she acknowledged the distress of his family. His case was a reminder of why 24/7 CT scanner services were needed, she said. CT scanning was an important diagnostic tool, particularly for events such as head injuries and strokes.

The coroner’s report noted no other CT service in a provincial or rural hospital in the South Island did not operate 24/7.

SDHB chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar said in the coroner’s report 24/7 CT scanner services at Dunstan were “desirable”, but that “put simply, money spent on enabling 24/7 CT services at Dunstan Hospital will take money away from a service somewhere else. At this time we [SDHB] do not consider the implementation of a 24/7 CT service in Dunstan as warranted”.

This week, he said the SDHB accepted, and took seriously, the coroner’s recommendations, and the new 24/7 CT scanner service at Dunstan was “welcomed”.

He did not provide any further response to his earlier comments about not thinking 24/7 services were warranted.