New unit gets thumbs-up

Impressive space . . . Dunedin city councillor Rachel Elder (left) was thoroughly impressed by the new Dunedin Hospital Gastroenterology Unit during a tour led by clinical director Dr Jason Hill (right) on Tuesday. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Dunedin city councillor Rachel Elder was thoroughly impressed with the new Dunedin Hospital Gastroenterology Unit, after being part of an informal tour this week.

The $3.2million unit, on the eighth floor of Dunedin Hospital, will be officially opened tomorrow – good timing for the rollout of the National Bowel Screening programme in the Southern district.

The expanded facility gives the Southern District Health Board the capacity to carry out an additional 300 to 350 colonoscopies as part of the programme.

Cr Elder was particularly interested in viewing the facility, as she lost her brother Hugh to bowel cancer in March 2017.

With a family history of bowel health issues, Cr Elder and her family were tested and decided to undergo further investigation.

“I had a colonoscopy and they found polyps, but luckily these were non-cancerous,” she said.

The polyps were removed, and Cr Elder would need to have a colonoscopy every five years, because of her family history.

“It certainly creates peace of mind, especially when someone in your family has died from bowel cancer.

“You don’t need to worry that there’s something nasty happening in your colon.”

After being taken on a tour of the facility on Tuesday, by clinical director Dr Jason Hill and charge nurse Karen Kempin, Cr Elder said her brother would have been “rapt” about the new unit.

“He would be excited that this could save people from going through what he did.”

It was important families were transparent and talked with each other about health issues.

“We need to encourage each other to get checked out and to participate in the bowel screening programme when the invitation comes,” she said.

“And this facility is going to be a nice place for people to come – the surroundings are very pleasant and the staff are lovely.”

Dr Hill said the new gastroenterology unit was quieter and had a lot of natural light – especially in patient areas and where staff spent a lot of time.

“What is particularly pleasing is there will be separation of pre- and post-procedure patients.

“There will also be separation between inpatients and outpatients, which is the first time we’ve been able to do that.

“We’ve worked very hard on issues such as privacy and dignity and having a state-of-the art facility allows us to do that properly.”

At present, up to 2700 “mixed procedures” – mostly endoscopy, as well as liver ultrasound and liver biopsies – are performed at the gastroenterology unit each year.

It has five gastroenterologists (some part-time), eight endoscopists, and a team of nursing staff.

The new unit has two commissioned endoscopy procedure rooms and a third in reserve, a treatment room, separate admission and discharge rooms and a 10-bed seven-seat recovery area.