Focus on free health care

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Jannye Freeman
CONSTANT GARDENER: John Kenney provides produce for the kitchen in an extensive and well maintained vegetable garden. Trust chairwoman Jannye Freeman picks one of his strawberries.

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Free health care is the Whangaroa Health Services Trust's top priority.

That's the assurance from trustees. The trust was in the firing line last week about a failed business venture and its management style - with community concern about the future of Whangaroa's free GP service.

But chairwoman Jannye Freeman says the trust is strongly committed to preserving the status quo of free health care through the present challenging economic times and into the future.

It was the trust's "hand-up not hand-out" philosophy that led to what is seen in the community as a misguided project, involving a catering contract at Whangaroa Sport Fishing Club.

The venture resulted in an $85,000 loss to the trust and the matter is presently with lawyers.

It's hoped there will be a satisfactory resolution for the parties, both of which play a prominent role in the community.

The cafe proposal was designed to earn revenue, create employment opportunities and promote healthy eating, trust chief executive Garry Ware says.

Mr Ware says financial constraints for the health service over the past three years required cost cutting, including redundancies or reductions in employment hours for staff.

Cleaning has been rationalised and the supply of food has been reviewed.

Funding constraints have also generated creative thinking about how to make funds go further.

The trust is proud of its extensive and productive vegetable garden and 59 fruit trees that supply the rest home kitchen, plus extra produce for sale to staff.

Last year, enough pumpkins were stored to supply the kitchen for a year.

"We have had minimal increases in government funding for the past three years including one contract that has had no increase.

"So we have had to absorb some costs but the trustees are very determined to give free health services as long as is practicable," Mr Ware says.

The trust is also clearing up what it sees as technicalities to do with its trust deed, also questioned at its annual general meeting.

Mr Ware says audits have been done, as required, and corrective actions undertaken.

Ms Freeman says the service has valued long-serving staff, although it's a challenge to attract registered nurses.

The staff are seen as a major factor in maintaining the organisation's stability and the involvement of the community also plays a big part in the trust's strategic plan.

Services for the elderly include the 20-bed Kauri Lodge.

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The health centre had 35,948 clinic visits in the 2011/12 financial year.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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