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Lismore Base Hospital

Notable delays for public patients requiring endoscopy, especially colonoscopy, procedures are set to become even longer following a decision by consultant gastroenterologist Howard Hope to discontinue accepting referrals for patients needing upper GI endoscopy or colonoscopy at Lismore Base Hospital (LBH).

In a letter of 9 February 2020 to local referring doctors and other relevant parties, a clearly exasperated Dr Hope said the “prime reason is the excessive waiting times for public endoscopy at LBH, especially for colonoscopy.”

He stated that he and colleagues had been discussing the long waiting times with LBH management for many years.

In December 2019 he asked LBH managers to create a public Outpatient Clinic for gastroscopy and colonoscopy referrals. Referral to this open access Outpatient Clinic would help reduce the delay from GP referral to the appropriate procedure.

He added “The fundamental problem is that endoscopy waiting times (compared with surgical waiting times) are not a reportable performance indicator for hospital managers. In my opinion this is a serious failure of the NSW Department of Health policy.”

Explaining that the problem has been compounded by a colleague resigning from LBH, Dr Hope said LBH is currently negotiating with a clinician in the UK to commence as a Staff Specialist.

Meanwhile, risks to potentially seriously ill patients continue: “We have seen patients, appropriately referred by their GPs or Specialists, experience delayed diagnoses of cancer by up to 6 months. One of my colleagues is being sued for such a delayed diagnosis even though he triaged the patient as a category 1 (which is a recommendation to have the colonoscopy at LBH in 1 month).”

Dr Hope is keen to work with LBH Management to resolve this dangerous situation. In the interim he continues to provide inpatient and oncall services to LBH. Consultations in his private rooms are similarly not affected.

He has encouraged GPs who feel strongly about this issue to lobby LBH Management in regard to commencing a public Outpatient service.

Editor’s note: We are advised that at the time of publication there is no outpatient clinic but negotiations are continuing.