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Dialogue follows suspended trans health clinic

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 8th October 2013

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Auckland District Health Board is pledging to lead a regional discussion about the provision of trans health services, and is promising trans people will be included in the conversation.

It follows Auckland Sexual Health Service (ASHS) announcing the suspension of its Trans Clinic, which means while it will continue to manage current patients, it can no longer take new referrals.

The Service explained this is because it does not have enough Consultants to keep up with demand. However it says the Ministry of Health has also made it clear that resources need to go to other areas of sexual health management, if ASHS is to be "successful" in the next round of funding.

One insider has compared the situation to being held to ransom by the Ministry.

Auckland Sexual Health Service has been the main provider of trans care in Auckland for over 15 years.

In a new statement, Auckland District Health Board’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Margaret Wilsher says there were gaps in the way care was being provided to trans patients and there is a need for a more comprehensive, integrated service.

“The first step is for us is to initiate a discussion with the other DHBs in the Northern Region to ascertain whether they also feel there is a need for a regional service,” Dr Wilsher says.

“In concert with those discussions, we will also engage the Ministry of Health to ensure our approach in the Northern Region is aligned with that of other regions.

“Once we have clarity on that, I would expect that in the New Year we can begin drawing on international evidence about the best models of care. That will inform our options for service design.

“However, I am very clear that these discussions will need to include the trans communities. This has to be a partnership approach and we are very genuine about working together to get the best outcomes.”

Dr Wilsher says the issue of access to breast reduction surgery for FtM patients will also be part of the discussion, following an announcement from an Auckland surgeon that he will no longer be able to provide ‘top surgery’. He was the only Auckland surgeon providing the surgery under the public health system.

“At the moment, we do not have a joined-up pathway and we need to try to overcome that,” Dr Wilsher says. “I know members of our trans communities feel their specific needs have been neglected and I can appreciate why they feel this way.

“By working in partnership, we have the best chance of finally having issues around access to healthcare services addressed in a sustainable way.”

The pledge from the DHB follows a meeting Auckland transsexual women Racheal McGonigal and Roxanne Henare held with Dr Wilsher and another DHB representative, Sue Waters, yesterday.

McGonigal says they are happy with the result of the meeting, which was open and honest.

“ADHB, through structural changes, acknowledged they had let things to do with gender services go off the boil, but both Margaret and Sue clearly showed they wanted to get it going and back on track again,” she says.

“All up I think Roxanne and I both left feeling there was a definite willingness from ADHB to provide specific services to the TG/TS community. A willingness to communicate with us.

“They may not be able to provide everything we want but they certainly seem like they wish to provide as much as possible and later on this may see a roll out in other DHBs, once they identify where the needs are.

“They definitely recognise Transsexuals and others under the Transgender Umbrella and a need for specific services. We also let them know we will definitely be following up and maintaining the contact.”

McGonigal has also written to the Health Minister to express her concern about the situation.

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