Updated - Health Minister's hospital pass to SDHB
Updated: The Health Minister's office has been in touch with Crux today to confirm that "some not all" of the hospital petition comments were reviewed by staff.
The Crux petition calling for a new hospital for the Southern Lakes district has bounced out of the Health Minister's office to the Dunedin offices of the Southern DHB.
The petition, that remains open, has almost 6,000 signatures plus hundreds of harrowing personal accounts of the hardship and serious health risks caused by the poor state of our current Lakes District hospital.
The Chief Executive of the Southern DHB, Chris Fleming, has acknowledged receipt of the petition that was originally presented by Mayor Jim Boult to Dr David Clark, Health Minister.
In a rather blunt response to Crux the Health Minister's office said simply the hospital decision rested with the Southern DHB. This was in spite of more than one request from Crux for the Minister to read the detailed comments or at least act as a broker between the different parties currently trying to bring a new hospital plan together for the region.
It is agreed between all parties that the Southern DHB is short of cash and does not have the resources to provide the Southern Lakes district with a new hospital in spite of 7% annual population growth and over 3 million visitors. The DHB's current hospital upgrade will provide only three extra beds, no surgery facilities, no maternity facilities and no relief to the horror stories so painfully documented in the petition comments.
In a full response to Crux today Mr Fleming commits himself and the Southern DHB to engaging with the community and explaining the DHB's challenges, as well as "ensuring the delivery of high quality sustainable health services in the region that are matched to the demands of the community. This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion of building a new secondary hospital however."
Crux understands that a number of different private groups are still trying to assemble a deal that will deliver a new hospital. The Southern DHB has indicated it would lease public health space in such a privately funded hospital and Mayor Jim Boult has committed to ensuring that free, public access is part of any future deal.
In the meantime, all we can do is publish Chris Fleming's response in full, and give our own commitment to stay across this story, in a determined but respectful manner, until there is a resolution that does meet the needs of the community. We have included a link at the end of this story to the comments from the petition and to the petition itself. Crux will be working with the SDHB, and the Health Minister's office, to make sure that the lines of communication are kept open and kept positive.
Letter from Chris Fleming, Chief Executive Officer, Southern District Health Board to Peter Newport, Managing Editor, Crux.
Thank you for sending this information to us.
Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the views shared from the community, and the importance they place on having appropriate health services. Queenstown is indeed growing, a long way from main tertiary centres, and presents challenging geography and climate which both attracts people to the region, and exacerbates its remoteness when things go wrong.
As we discussed with you when Crux was launched, we are committed to ensuring high quality, sustainable health services in the region that are appropriately matched to the demands of the community.
This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion of building a new secondary hospital, however.
Our priorities are to ensure Lakes District Hospital functions as an excellent emergency, diagnostics and transfer centre. This means we can cope with emergencies, and provide reassurance to the community we will get them to the care they need. Work is soon to commence on the redevelopment of the Hospital to further support this critical role.
More broadly, as our people live longer, the future of health care is moving away from highly specialised hospital-based services, and focusing increasingly on supporting people to live well, in their own homes.
Our Primary and Community Care Strategy is designed to support this approach, envisaging the development of Health Care Homes (GP practices offering new, flexible approaches to care), Community Health Hubs (bringing together more services) and more technology-enabled solutions. All of these initiatives reduce the need for people to travel to Dunedin or Invercargill. Again, this is underway, with Queenstown Medical Centre among the first general practices to enter the Health Care Home programme. A ‘locality network’ of health care providers in the Central-Lakes region will become instrumental in ensuring our system of care remains current and responsive to the needs of the people in this area.
We are also willing to work with private providers for elective services, again supporting people to access planned care closer to home.
I would welcome the opportunity to work with you to enable the community to understand more about the factors that underpin health care decisions in the Central Lakes area, and how we are responding to this with the services we provide.
I suggest you work with my Communications Director, Nicola Mutch, to develop an explainer of sorts, perhaps in a question and answer format, that can provide some clarity to the issues that have been raised by the community.
Thank you again for your interest in this important area."
Chris Fleming, Chief Executive Officer, Southern District Health Board.