By Michael Schultz | Posted: Monday September 24, 2018
This foreword will be my last as I will be handing over the Presidency for the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology to Malcolm Arnold in November. I would be lying if I did not admit to the fact that this fulfills me with a sense of relief however, there is also some sadness. I took over this position with high hopes, wanting to achieve something, wanting to contribute. Early on I had to realise that a lot that is done is reactive in nature, reacting to the environment and actions of others. This sometimes left little room for strategic thinking, even less so for strategic actions.
Nevertheless, these were exciting times and over the two years I believe quite a bit was achieved. NZSG initiated or at least supported five Pharmac applications for funding of new pharmaceuticals with the aim of bringing New Zealand back in line with Australia and other countries to achieve better care for our patients. We witnessed the roll out of the National Bowel Screening Programme, eagerly awaited and long overdue; but with it came the realisation that our workforce and endoscopy facilities might not be able to cope with the increased demand. Prepared by the pilot program, there were still many uncertainties around uptake, impact on waiting lists for symptomatic patients, specialist appointments and everything else gastroenterology entails. NZSG answered with the workforce project which encompassed a huge amount of work. Some areas struggle with demand and compared to other countries lag behind. Special emphasis needs to be taken to provide equitable access to gastroenterological services across the nation. Results will soon be published and will surely be used as the baseline for capacity planning for years to come. Behind the scenes, NZSG was a critical discussion partner with EGGNZ and NEQIP actively participating in shaping the future of New Zealand endoscopy services. We had a productive meeting with the Honorable Dr David Clark, Minister of Health highlighting our concerns but also offering to more actively participate to find solutions. Another highlight was the funding of direct acting antiviral medications, initially only for a proportion of patients but soon for all genotypes.
At this point, I would like to invite all of you to come to Dunedin in November for the ASM. As convener I have worked with the local organising committee to assemble a great faculty of six international speakers and over 50 local and national experts. The program aims to tackle the interesting issues of our times ranging from the restricted treatment options for patients with complex inflammatory bowel disease, green prescriptions for NAFLD, the changing diagnostic paradigm in coeliac disease to celebrating 25 years of liver transplantation in New Zealand and much more. Join us and relive your student days at the dinner in New Zealand’s only covered stadium.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all members of the Executive Committee for their tireless efforts, great enthusiasm, ideas outside the box and their passion for the NZSG. We were a great team. A special thanks goes to Anna Pears. Without Anna in the office, holding everything together, taking notes, enforcing action lists, drafting letters and so much more, we would have achieved much less. I am relieved that I can hand over the society in good spirits and wish Malcolm all the best for his Presidency.