Two senior officers in the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) have recognised the growing need for specific and targeted services for the trans* and gender diverse communites within the Auckland Sexual Health Services, saying they will lead a regional discussion about these issues.
An informal meeting was held today, 7 October 2013, between Roxanne Peoples-Henare and Racheal McGonigal of the Group Transsexuals of New Zealand, and Margret Wilsher and Sue Waters, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Professional Health Officer of the ADHB, to discuss the future of trans* and gender diverse health services.
“Both Roxanne and I felt it was a very open and honest meeting with clear desire to find what is best for the Transsexual and Transgender community,” says McGonigal.
The meeting comes only days after Dr Nicky Perkins, Clinical Director of Auckland Sexual Health, informed the community with deep regret that the trans* clinic within the Auckland Sexual Health Services (ASHS) has been temporarily suspended until further notice. ASHS will not be able to manage any more new trans* referrals; those who are currently being managed by ASHS will still continue to receive their treatment(s).
McGonigal says: “We acknowledged there was no blame to be found or sort. The ADHB, through structural changes, acknowledged they had let things to do with gender services go off the boil, but both Margret and Sue clearly showed they wanted to get it going and back on track again.”
“They definitely recognise the growing need through ASHS figures for specific gender services.”
“There will be no short term easy quick fix but something solid needs to be put in place and this will take time. Their first need is to have the discussion between the three DHB’s (Auckland, Waitemata and presumably Counties Manukau), hopefully by Christmas,” she says.
It is hoped that the discussion will help them to ascertain how and if they can work together to provide services and what type of services they can provide, Dr Wilsher acknowledged that this may include educating GP’s on trans* issues.
The ADHB have released a statement following the meeting confirming that they will lead a regional discussion about health service provision for members of the trans* and gender diverse communities.
Dr Wilsher says the ADHB recognised there were gaps in the way care was currently provided to trans* patients and that there was a need for a more comprehensive, integrated service. She says it would be critical for the trans* gender diverse communities to be included in the discussion so their views were represented in service design.
“The first step is for us (ADHB) to initiate a discussion with the other DHB’s in the northern Region to ascertain whether they also feel there is a need for a regional service,” she 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* and gender diverse communities. This has to be a partnership approach and we are very genuine about working together to get the best outcomes.”
This comes less than a month after Auckland surgeon, Wayne Jones, revealed that due to an increase in workload he can no longer provide trans* and gender diverse patients with chest reconstruction surgery covered under the public health system.
Dr. Wilsher says the issue of access to top surgery would be part of the discussion.
Jones is the only surgeon in Auckland currently carrying out the procedure under the public health system and has been pivotal in providing the Auckland trans* and gender diverse communities access to such a vital service.
“At the moment, we do not have a joined-up pathway and we need to try to overcome that,” she 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.”
| Sarah Murphy