Downs Endoscopy Services (DES) was founded in Toowoomba in 1989 as the brainchild of four foundation directors – gastroenterologist Dr Peter Stephenson, general physician Dr George Tucker and general surgeons Dr Bob Vickers and Dr John Hede - all of whom were accredited to perform endoscopy procedures by the Conjoint Committee for the Recognition of Training in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
DES was founded as a result of the increasing demand for endoscopy procedures in Toowoomba; endoscopy was more accurate and allowed for extra functions than the use of barium contrast x-rays (which also involved significant radiation exposure). By the late 1980’s, endoscopy equipment had improved to allow procedures to be performed quickly and safely, however, General Practitioners (GPs) had to refer their patients to a specialist for endoscopy procedures when often they did not require specialist involvement in their ongoing management. The founding directors therefore realised that there was a need for an efficient, easy-to-access endoscopy service in Toowoomba, where patients and their GPs could review the results of their procedure as soon as required. This meant that the GPs could continue a patient’s care plan, or refer the patient to further specialist care if deemed necessary.
DES was first based at the Toowoomba Specialist Centre. Upper endoscopies (gastroscopies) were performed in the Toowoomba Surgicentre Theatre which was also located in the Toowoomba Specialist Centre. Lower endoscopies (colonoscopies) were performed at St Vincent’s Hospital. After moving the office to St Vincent’s Hospital, all procedures were now done in the hospital where directors bought and supplied all of their own equipment as well as performing patient sedations themselves - current best practise at the time. DES was the first endoscopy service to purchase and use video scopes which supplanted the original flexible endoscopes which were known as fibre optic scopes. Video scopes provided much clearer views then fibre optic scopes and as images are displayed on a TV type screen rather than through an eyepiece, endoscopy nurses were able to actively assist in endoscopic procedures such as removing colonic polyps which increased the efficiency and safety of the procedures. Increased patient safety and comfort evolved with the involvement of anaesthetists to provide sedation.
DES now perform procedures every week day at both St Vincent’s and St Andrew’s Hospitals in Toowoomba. Today Downs Endoscopy Services is managed by five directing endoscopists – four general surgeons and one internal physician. Our office location is at Entrance 2 of St Vincent’s Hospital in Scott Street Toowoomba.