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St George's Hospital makes game-changing move to recruit an ophthalmologist

June 2014


In an unprecedented move that is set to save New Zealanders thousands of dollars, St George’s Hospital has started a recruitment campaign to employ an ophthalmologist – making it the first private hospital in New Zealand to employ a specialist surgeon. 

As a result, it will be more than 30 percent cheaper to have a cataract operation at St George’s compared to the current market rate – leading to significant savings for everyday New Zealanders, many of whom are retired and on fixed incomes.  

Around 40 percent of all cataract operations at St George’s are funded by patients who have no health insurance.   

“The trigger for St George’s to recruit a full-time ophthalmologist was the desire to maintain a viable eye service following the decision by most of the city’s privately-operating eye surgeons to build their own private hospital,” says St George’s Chief Executive Greg Brooks. 

In the last 12 months more than 1400 cataract operations were performed at St George’s Hospital. It is anticipated that at least one full-time ophthalmologist can meet this demand. 

“Like any organisation we have to respond to change in the marketplace. As we have invested in specialist equipment and nursing staff to provide eye surgery, we were not content to lose this service,” says Greg. 

“We have provided cataract surgery at St George’s for many decades  and look forward to continuing to provide a high quality service in the future under this new employment model. St George’s will now be able to offer cataract operations at a fraction of the price, and we are pleased to be in a position to pass significant savings on to the community.” 

The anticipated cost reduction is due to the difference between the current professional surgical fee charged by surgeons, compared to the much lower cost of recovering a portion of the new ophthalmologist’s salary per operation. 

The move is a game-changer for New Zealand’s private health sector. 

“St George’s is sending a strong signal to the market, with potentially positive flow-on impacts for health insurance companies and their members.  

“Internationally, we are seeing more surgeons choosing to become employees in private hospitals as opposed to being self-employed visiting specialists with attending rights. I therefore would not be surprised if other private hospitals in New Zealand were following this with interest.” 

A rigorous process will be used to ensure the selected ophthalmologist is of the highest standing, says Greg.

 “If any of the ophthalmologists currently providing surgery at St George’s wish to be considered for employment, we would welcome their interest.”

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