Launch of Southern DHB Disability Strategy

The launch of the Southern Disability Strategy on Wednesday 7th April marks an ongoing commitment by the DHB to removing barriers to healthcare for disabled people and providing equitable health and disability services throughout the Southern district.

The Strategy launch follows a period of consultation with the wider Southern disability community over the last two years, and has been developed in partnership with the Donald Beasley Institute.

“It has been developed based on community feedback and contribution from people with diverse experience of the health and disability sectors both as consumers and providers. They have told us what is important, we have listened to the community, and the Disability Strategy reflects what the community says.

“The Strategy clearly sets out the things we want to achieve in order to make a difference over the next five years and beyond. It will be a key document to build on the work already achieved to improve the health service experience and health outcomes for people with disabilities and whanau,” says Southern DHB Executive Director of Quality and Clinical Governance Solutions, Gail Thomson.

The vision of the Southern DHB Disability Strategy is that within the Southern district all disabled people, tāngata whaikaha, and Deaf people will have an equal opportunity to achieve their best possible health outcomes, enabling their participation in their community.

Paula Waby, Community Health Council member has been involved in the consultation process in creating the Strategy and says she’s excited about its launch. “I’m really appreciative that the DHB has consulted widely with the disabled population and I’m looking forward to the rolling out of the action plan and seeing the difference it will make.”

The implementation of the Strategy will be supported and guided by a Disability Working Group which will connect through to the Disability Support Advisory Committee (DSAC), Community Health Council (CHC) and the Iwi Governance Committee (IGC).

“We’re looking forward to prioritising all the actions across the southern health sector. We now have the opportunity to incorporate these in the planning for the new hospital so going forward our new facilities will be accessible for everyone,” says Ms Thomson.

Launch details:

Media are invited to attend the launch of the Southern Disability Strategy.

When: Wednesday 7 April 2021

Where: Board Room, Level 2, West Wing, Main Block Wakari Hospital Campus, 271 Taieri Road, Dunedin and via video link to the Board Room, Community Services Building, Southland Hospital Campus, Invercargill
Time: 3-4pm

The Southern Disability Strategy will be available on the Southern Health website after the launch.

Southern COVID-19 Vaccinations Begin

The first COVID-19 vaccinations in the Southern district were administered on Monday, in preparation for workers at Southern ports receiving their initial dose of the vaccine on Tuesday.

Thgrity vaccines were administered as part of the ‘wet run’ to test systems for the roll-out starting.

Up to 370 port workers based at international ports in Southern are scheduled to receive COVID-19 vaccinations this week.

Tomorrow around 225 border facing staff at Port Otago and around 45 workers at the NZAS Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, which has an international berth, will begin receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Vaccination of the 100 workers at South Port, in Bluff, begins on Wednesday 3 March.

The COVID-19 vaccination requires two doses and Southern workers will receive their second doses in three weeks’ time towards the end of March.

The roll-out at the ports is being conducted by trained vaccinators from General Practices in Dunedin and Invercargill, supported by WellSouth Primary Health Network and the Southern DHB’s Public Health Immunisation Team.

The vaccines have been transported to Dunedin and Invercargill in special containers, directly from the ultra-low temperature storage facility in Auckland.

Dr Susan Jack, Medical Officer of Health, Southern DHB welcomed the roll-out of Southern COVID-19 vaccinations as “a milestone for our district”.

“We are extremely grateful to the ports for all of their assistance in getting this important vaccination work started, and particularly for helping to protect their communities. It sets the scene for the continued roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine across the whole Southern district.

“I want to also thank the two General Practices in Dunedin and Invercargill and all the support workers who are helping with the roll-out. We could not do it without you.

“Southern was particularly hard hit in the first round of COVID-19 infections in early 2020 and our communities united against the serious COVID-19 threat. We ask for their continued support as we undertake the vaccine roll-out.

“In the meantime, please remain vigilant and keep doing the basics to stay safe. Use your COVID-19 tracing app to scan QR codes wherever you go and keep a record of your movements.

Maintain regular hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette. If you have any symptoms, stay at home and arrange a test immediately. Call 0800VIRUS19 (0800 847 8719) to find the closest/next available slot for testing in Southern. Stay at home until your results come through, Dr Jack said.

Southern 15-30 Year Olds Asked to Upload Paper Vaccination Records

As part of the campaign encouraging people aged 15-30 to be immunised for measles (MMR), Southern DHB is going the extra mile asking people in this age group to send in their paper records so they can be recorded digitally on the National Immunisation Register.

Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack says while people these days expect medical records to be digital, New Zealand’s National Immunisation Register (NIR) wasn’t developed until the mid-2000s.

“Southern childhood immunisation records were added to NIR from 2006 onwards, so anyone born before that date is likely to have important paper records at home, in their Plunket/Well Child Tamariki Ora book.

“Southern DHB invites 15-30 year olds to find their paper records, photograph and upload them using an electronic form on the Southern Health website at

“Staff will enter this information into NIR so there is a central, digital record that be accessed by health care providers. It will allow people to know what they have been immunised for and what vaccinations they still need,” she says.

People in the age group who were born outside New Zealand are also being asked to send in their paper immunisation records, so they can be included on NIR too.

Anyone aged 15-30 who has not been immunised for measles (MMR) should contact their GP to arrange a FREE vaccination. Vaccinations are also available at 20 participating pharmacies in Southern. The list of pharmacies can be found at

*Note: Pregnant women cannot have the measles MMR vaccine.

Southerners with Cold/flu Symptoms Urged to get Tested

With new community cases of COVID-19 in Auckland, Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Michael Butchard is reminding Southerners to get tested if they have any cold or flu symptoms.

“While there is no information indicating an increased risk in our region from the Auckland cases, it is an important reminder that we must remain vigilant.

“The best way we can do this is for anyone with cold and flu symptoms, however minor, to call 0800VIRUS19 to arrange for a FREE test. Phone lines will be staffed over the weekend between 9am to noon, and weekdays from 9am to 4pm.

“Southerners are stoic and don’t want to overreact, but by getting a COVID-19 test to check even minor symptoms, you are helping protect our wider community. The simple act of an individual deciding to get a test is what has uncovered New Zealand’s recent outbreaks over the past months.

“Please also maintain good hand hygiene, with regular handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, remember to cough/sneeze into your elbow and keep using the COVID tracer app or contract tracing sheets to record your movements. If you are sick, stay home until you are symptom free,” he said.

WellSouth Medical Director Dr Stephen Graham urged people not to be complacent: “Testing only takes a few minutes, it’s free and you are helping ensure our communities are COVID-free.”

Dr Butchard praised the response of Southerners to the COVID-19 threat so far, saying that their sense of community responsibility and willingness to respond to public health messaging was encouraging.

Southland’s REACH Team Celebrates 5th Birthday and No Waiting List!

A service that provides community based rehabilitation helping Southlanders to recover and make the transition back to their daily lives after hospitalisation is celebrating not only its fifth birthday, but the benefits of an increase in staffing.

This means there is now no waiting list, and Southlanders can access the popular service as soon as they need it.

The REACH (Rehabilitation Early Assessment in the Community and Home) service began in December 2015, and involves a multidisciplinary team which provides important occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech language therapy and social work services to patients after they leave hospital.

The service sees a wide range of patients, with the majority having neurological conditions such as stroke, says Physiotherapist, Ruth Forbes.

The success of the approach has led to high demand for the service. And now, with a recent increase in staffing, Ruth happily reports that “In December the service will celebrate its fifth birthday in good shape, despite a year where COVID-19 caused several months’ disruption to our home visits”.

“The team was designed to work with people immediately upon leaving hospital, and with a recently approved increase in staffing, we are delighted that we currently no longer have patients having to wait for their rehabilitation,” she says.

The tight-knit team of eight, includes three occupational therapists, two physiotherapists, a speech language therapist, a social worker and a rehabilitation assistant, who provide six weeks’ support for patients over 16 years of age, but this can be extended to 12 weeks when required.

Ruth says they make a really able and competent team, where everyone has the same focus. “We all get on really well, are all good communicators and everyone is working in the same direction.”

Referrals to REACH are made from inpatient services at, but not limited to, Southland Hospital, ISIS Centre at Wakari Hospital and Burwood Hospitals, for patients who live in a 45 minute radius from Southland Hospital. For patients living beyond the 45 minute geographical boundary, other options for rehabilitation input can be explored through the REACH team.

The team’s first visit to a new patient is done as a joint visit with the most appropriate therapist for the patient’s needs, where they introduce themselves and the service and work to understand the patient’s needs and rehabilitation goals.

The occupational therapists look after the functional aspects of the patient’s everyday life including cognition, vision and sensory functioning, upper limb therapy, personal cares, returning to leisure activities and work etc. The physiotherapists’ sphere is exercises and mobility, improving physical functioning of upper and lower limb, working towards their goals of returning to everyday activities, and the speech language therapist oversees verbal and written communication, comprehension, as well as swallow assessments. The social worker looks after financial concerns and emotional wellbeing, and the rehabilitation assistant ensures the patient helps to deliver the programmes that each of the disciplines put in place.

“By visiting our patients at home we also make it easier for people to access our services, including those people with driving restrictions because of medical conditions, or people with disabilities that might find it difficult to travel to the hospital. Treatment sessions may also be provided at the hospital where appropriate (e.g. attending Hydrotherapy), and sometimes in the community such as shops, public amenities, leisure facilities and workplaces as required.

“Sometimes people can find it a bit overwhelming at first with us popping in several times a week to visit them at home, but often they quickly experience improvements in their functioning, and by the end of the six or 12 weeks they are usually really sad to see us go.”

Ruth is an advocate for every service having a multidisciplinary team, because “it is easier and less confusing for patients, and provides a better, more cohesive service”.

REACH is a definite Southland success story. So what’s the secret to their success?

“The best part is that we are a really close-knit team who works well together for the benefit of the patients,” Ruth says.

Senior Doctors Encourage Junior Colleagues with Research Prize Symposium

Southern DHB’s surgical consultants are encouraging excellence and improvement in the region’s junior doctors, by hosting a research prize day that showcases and acknowledges their work.

The initiative of Southland Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Amir Sandiford and General Surgeon Mrs Alice Febery, the inaugural Southland Regional Orthopaedic and Surgical Audit was hosted at Southland Hospital Campus Learning and Research Centre last week.

Junior doctors at the Southern DHB were invited to submit research project abstracts for consideration by Mr Sandiford and Mrs Febery, who chose ten speakers to present at the symposium from amongst 30 applications.

“All projects addressed topical issues and it was good to see and share what our young colleagues are doing. The purpose is to look at what we are doing, compare it against the gold standard and then keep improving. The symposium was also a chance for reflection, collegiality and networking,” Mr Sandiford said.

Mr Sandiford said that he and Mrs Febery had started work at Southland Hospital on the same day two years ago, and had seen a lot of good things happening that reflected high quality practice and excellent clinical practice, facets of care to be proud of.

“Things can change rapidly, and the onus is on clinicians to change with contemporary practice and continue to provide a high standard of care,” he said.

Mrs Febery said “Southland Hospital sees a significant amount of disease in a variety of forms for a regional area. Researching these in these areas has huge value to our region, and also in adding to the general knowledge base”.

They had been impressed with the quality of research and hoped to see applicants back again next year, well prepared and ready to participate in this ongoing event.

The judging panel for the symposium comprised Associate Professor and Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Gordon Veale, Southern DHB Programme Director for Orthopaedics Mr Chris Birks, and Consultant Urologist Mr Michael Vincent. The judges chose the top three presentations on the day.


The top award, including a trophy and book vouchers, was won by Dr Magnus Cheesman for Out of scopes study – Evaluating video vs fibre cystoscopes prior to replacement purchase.

Second prize went to Dr Hannah Sim and Dr William Oldfield for their paper Opioid prescribing practices for elective total joint arthroplasty at Southland Hospital, and third prize to Dr Leo Stewart who examined the subject of Estimated versus actual length of procedures in Acute Theatre.

Mr Sandiford and Mrs Febery thanked all those who supported the event, including the Southern DHB, University of Otago, Associate Professor Konrad Richter, and industry partners which sponsored catering, prizes and helped with overall organisation of the event.

SDHB Medical Officer of Health Urges Southern 15-30 year olds to Have FREE Catch-Up Measles Vaccination

Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack is calling on young people aged 15 to 30 years who haven’t been immunised for measles to make it a priority to get a FREE catch-up MMR vaccine.

Measles is a serious disease that is about eight times more contagious than COVID-19. Getting immunised is the best way to protect young people, their whānau and community from catching and spreading measles.

Dr Jack’s call to Southern youth and their whānau is part of the national measles campaign, recently launched by the Ministry of Health, the focus of which is to improve the immunity against measles amongst all people in the 15 to 30 year age group.

During the campaign the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine will be offered free to anyone 15 to 30 years who has not yet been fully immunised against measles. This catch-up campaign for 15 to 30 year olds is a one dose campaign.

Dr Jack said, “Many people born in New Zealand between 1990 and 2005 are not fully protected because a higher than usual number of them did not have their scheduled childhood MMR vaccinations.

“In recent years Southern has experienced a significant measles outbreak in Queenstown and cases in Dunedin, Oamaru, Wanaka and Gore. In Southern towns and cities there were 72 cases of measles in 2019. New Zealand wide there were more than 2,000 cases in 2019, of which 41% were Pacific peoples and 24% Māori.

“This campaign has a strong focus on equity aiming to have all young people aged 15 to 30 years immunised against measles, reducing any gaps in immunisation between different groups, in particular Māori and Pacific peoples, those with disabilities, and those living rurally.

“People who have come from overseas, including the Pacific Islands, may have had different vaccines that may not fully protect them against measles, mumps and rubella,” she said.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the simplest steps you can take to stay healthy,” said WellSouth Medical Director, Dr Stephen Graham. “It helps protect you, your whānau and others from getting sick. Like the campaign suggests: Protect yourself from measles and be a guardian of the future.”

Dr Jack said, “If you haven’t been immunised, or you cannot find your childhood vaccination records and your GP does not have a copy of them, then the Ministry of Health recommends you have the MMR vaccine now.

“There are no additional safety concerns with having an extra dose. However, women who are pregnant cannot have the MMR vaccine,” she said.

Young people can get their FREE catch-up vaccinations now from General Practices across the Southern district.

“My message to the young people of Southern, and their whānau, is you are offered a free measles vaccine, take it. Be proactive. Ring your Doctor and book in for your FREE vaccine to protect yourself and your community from this serious disease,” Dr Jack said.

To find out more about measles and the MMR vaccination, visit:

The Southern Health website Or

The Ministry of Health’s website

Photo: Practice Nurse Emma Hughson of Mountain Lakes Medical explains the MMR vaccine to patient Fiona Sim.

All young people in Southern aged 15 to 30 years who haven’t been immunised for measles are being urged to make it a priority to get a FREE catch-up MMR vaccine.

Southerners Urged to Maintain Health and Hygiene Precautions and Get a Test if Unwell

With the long weekend coming up Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack is urging Southerners to maintain important health and hygiene precautions including being tested if you have any cold or flu symptoms, no matter how minor.

“The increase in cases we are seeing in managed isolation and the recent community cases is a reminder what a tricky virus this is and that we all need to remain vigilant.

“This virus is raging in many countries across the world and we know that the situation can change very quickly.”

Southern residents and visitors are reminded to stay at home and be tested if they have any cold or flu symptoms. COVID testing is free and available seven days a week. Call your GP or 0800 VIRUS 19 (0800 847 8719) to be referred for a test. You do not need to self-isolate after a test, but you should stay home until you are symptom-free as you should for any cough or cold.

“Hand hygiene, physical distancing and good cough etiquette remain simple yet important ways to keep yourself and the community safe by slowing the spread of any potential COVID-19 transmission. Although masks are not compulsory on public transport and on planes it is still advisable to wear them,” says Dr Jack.

“The public are also urged to record where they have been by using the NZ COVID – tracer app. Many people will be travelling around the country this weekend and it’s important to keep a track of where you’ve been in case our contact tracers need to contact you.”

A case under investigation on board a ship off Port Chalmers in Dunedin where a person on board had returned a weak positive result, has since been determined as a previously reported case in India in August. The investigation and precautionary measures taken are good examples of how Southern DHB’s Public Health team are working with the Ministry of Health to keep the public safe.

“This is reassuring for the public as we now know that the person is not considered to be infectious and poses no risk to the New Zealand public, and all other crew have tested negative.”

Southland Hospital’s new MRI Scanner Ready for Patients

Southland Hospital’s new $2 million MRI scanner is now in place and ready to scan its first patients today (Wednesday 30 September), Southern DHB Chief Executive Chris Fleming said today.

The new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which is manufactured in the Netherlands by Philips Healthcare, is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has been installed in Southland Hospital’s Radiology Department over the past seven weeks.

It replaces the MRI scanner that the Southland community fundraised to buy 16 years ago and, while it had served the community well over the years, the newly installed scanner is better equipped to meet modern needs.

Mr Fleming said the advantages of the new scanner include that it has a 70cm bore, which allows for larger patients to be scanned in Southland. The new machine will be more comfortable for patients, as it includes a special screen to help patients relax, follow directions, minimize motion, reduce stress and the need for sedation.

The new MRI will also provide greater image quality for scans and be 80% quieter to operate. The new BlueSeal magnet technology requires less helium than traditional MRIs, which is important in a site like Invercargill where helium is difficult and expensive to get on-site quickly.

“Installation of the Philips Ambition MRI scanner marks the successful completion of the first phase of the upgrade of Southland Hospital’s Radiology Department. Phase two, which is hoped to start in coming months, is to expand the treatment, consent and patient waiting areas to improve comfort, confidentiality and workflow in the MRI suite.”

Mr. Fleming thanked Pacific Radiology and St John’s for going “above and beyond” to assist Southern DHB with the urgent inpatient and outpatient scans during the seven week installation period.

While the Radiology Department had worked to reduce waiting lists prior to the downtime for installation, the assistance of Pacific Radiology and St John’s had been crucial for urgent scans during that time, he said.


Southland Hospital to Receive New MRI Scanner

Southland Hospital’s aging MRI scanner is to be removed and replaced by a new $1.6million scanner, believed to be the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Southern DHB Chief Executive Chris Fleming said 16 years ago the Southland community had fundraised to buy the current scanner for the former Southland District Health Board, and it had served the community well for many years.

“However, over the past 16 years technology has advanced, meaning that Southlanders have to travel to outside the province for special scans that the old scanner cannot provide. It is now time to replace this very old scanner with a new one that will allow more Southlanders to be treated closer to home, in their own community.

“The new scanner, supplied by Philips Healthcare, will be the first of its kind in New Zealand and will include features which will make the experience of having an MRI much more comfortable and less stressful for patients. This is expected to improve examination quality and reduce the number of general anaesthetics and sedation required for patients who experience anxiety due to claustrophobia or other concerns,” he said.

The old scanner will cease operation on 14 August and will be carefully decommissioned and replaced by the new one, with full services scheduled to resume on 1 October.

Services will continue to be provided for acute patients who require an MRI during this time.

Southern DHB’s Radiology Department is working in partnership with Pacific Radiology to access its local facilities for urgent scans for stable patients – although the number of emergency MRI requests is very low. Patients who are not considered stable, who require an urgent MRI, will be transferred to Dunedin Hospital.

In anticipation of the seven week decommissioning and installation, the Radiology Department has been working to reduce the waiting list for planned and elective patients by completing as many MRI scans as possible before 14 August.

As of 23 July there were 226 patients booked for an MRI scan at Southland Hospital. Of these, all but five have been offered an appointment and the majority will receive theirs prior to the outage. The remaining patients will receive their scans using the new scanner. Radiology staff will be contacting patients to advise them of the situation.

Mr Fleming thanked Southlanders for their patience while the old scanner is removed and the new one commissioned. “While the old scanner was a fantastic fundraising achievement that served Southlanders for many years, I’m delighted that the new scanner will soon be installed and that patients can be treated closer to home and more comfortably,” he said.

Frequently Asked Questions about Replacement of the MRI Scanner at Southland Hospital.

What is an MRI scanner?:

  • A magnetic resonance imaging scanner uses large magnet and radio waves to look at organs and structures within the body.

Why does Southland Hospital need a new MRI scanner?:

  • The current MRI scanner at Southland Hospital is 16 years old and technology has advanced since it was new. A new scanner will allow a greater variety of scans and will be more comfortable for patients. It means patients will no longer have to travel outside Southland for special scans.

How much will the new scanner cost and who will pay for it?:

  • The new scanner will cost $1.6million (excl GST) and will be paid for by the Southern District Health Board, which is funded by the Government. The old scanner was paid for by community fundraising 16 years ago in Southland.

How long will it take until the new scanner is operating?:

  • The old scanner will stop operating on 14 August 2020 and will be carefully decommissioned and removed. The new scanner will then be installed and commissioned. It is expected to take seven weeks. The new scanner is scheduled to begin scanning patients from 1 October.

What will happen to MRI services for Southlanders during that time?:

  • MRI services will still be available for acute patients who need an MRI scan. Acute patients who are stable will be scanned at local facilities owned by Pacific Radiology. Acute patients who need an MRI scan and are not considered to be stable will be transferred to Dunedin Hospital.

What about people who are on the waiting list for an MRI scan?

  • The Radiology Department has been preparing for the temporary outage of MRI scanner at Southland Hospital by working hard to reduce the waiting list by doing as many planned or elective scans as possible before 14 August.

Are you contacting patients to tell them what is happening?

  • Yes. Over coming weeks we will be contacting patients on the waiting list for planned and urgent scans to advise if their MRI will be done before 14 August, or after 1 October.

Who should people contact if they have questions?

Patients can contact the Radiology Department at Southland Hospital (03) 218-1949.

Members of the media should contact SDHB Communications on [email protected]