Update from the President

By Michael Schultz | Posted: Thursday July 12, 2018

Welcome to the second newsletter for 2018 and read about what the Executive have been working on over the past few months

Time is flying and I have entered the last 6 months of my tenure as president of the Society. Much has happened but there is still lots more that needs be achieved. Dr Malcolm Arnold, incoming President and myself have had a very amicable meeting with the Hon Dr David Clark, Minister of Health. Dr Clark listened to our concerns regarding the current and future workforce, especially with a view to the roll-out of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. Across the country, DHBs already face an overload of clinical and endoscopic work (with much endoscopy being outsourced in many DHBs to private facilities), elective surgical lists are stretched and this situation needs to be watched carefully. There is quite some inequality in access to gastroenterological services throughout the country. NZSG has joined forces with Dr Campbell White and the management team from Taranaki DHB to apply for Health Workforce New Zealand funding to create a ‘Provincial Fellowship’ to increase the workforce in these underserviced areas but also to raise awareness and interest amongst the registrars to work in the regional centres.

Furthermore we were able to voice our concerns with the Minister regarding the restrictive access to 2nd line biological treatment for patients with IBD and also to Direct Acting Antivirals for chronic Hepatitis C. Although for the latter some progress has been made as Medsafe have approved and gazetted the next generation of medications. Nevertheless, we are awaiting decisions by Pharmac for a number of other submissions co-authored or at least supported by NZSG on other medications for auto-immune Hepatitis, IBS, proctitis, etc. At this point, I’d like to take to opportunity to congratulate Pharmac on its 25th Anniversary. NZSG wishes to acknowledge the important role Pharmac has played over this time to make medications affordable for all New Zealanders. However, challenges are numerous and it will be no easy task to keep up with the access to newer, more effective but like-wise more expensive medications.

The meeting with the Minister was followed by a meeting with Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, to go into further detail of some issues. We were encouraged to put our concerns in writing and submit to the Ministry for action. A detailed report on workforce issues and the recommendation of possible solutions in collaboration with NZSG will be presented at the end of the month to the media and stakeholders. My thanks go to Malcolm Arnold, Campbell White and Thomas Caspritz for their endless enthusiasm to complete this significant piece of work. The results of this workforce analysis will form the basis for future decision making.

There might be another chance to talk to the Minister later in the year as he has signaled he hopes to come to Dunedin during the Annual Scientific Meeting in November. Other initiatives were started over the last few months. There will be an inaugural meeting during the ASM of the ‘Faecal Microbiota Transplantation Interest Group’ charged to come up with a national protocol and guidelines to make this treatment more accessible in smaller centres. IBDsmart, a mobile phone app created in collaboration with Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, that allows patients to stay in contact with their health care providers is hopefully ready to be launched to the public later in the year.

The Gastro Match Day for Advanced Training in Gastroenterology was successful and in this issue we have attached a table below indicating the registrars’ placement for 2019. NZSG wishes all trainees a successful stay in their new environment. Make the best of your local training opportunities but equally feedback any concerns you might have. Please also note that we are constructing a list of contacts for those advanced trainees interested in undertaking fellowships overseas, and encourage those thinking about these to plan early and talk to your bosses about what you’d like to consider and where would be best to apply.

I hope that you will enjoy this latest issue of the newsletter, the second in the new format. Let us know what you think. Give us ideas and stay warm.