U-turn on hospital review meeting

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 08:58 28/02/2013

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The region's health bosses have done a U-turn and will attend a public meeting to discuss a possible reduction of services at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said he and chairwoman Jenny Black had decided to attend the meeting, organised by the Save Our Services group, after listening to the wider community. They would clarify the board's review process but would not answer specific questions around services, Mr Fleming said.

"We need to ensure we listen to the community and the staff before we form any views."

Their decision to attend is a complete turnaround from what they told board members at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Fleming and Ms Black then met privately with the people who have organised the meeting - Marlborough District councillor Jessica Bagge and grape grower Stuart Smith - and reiterated their decision not to attend.

Ms Bagge said she was surprised by their change of direction yesterday.

"It seems the board is stressing about the publicity, which means we are doing the right thing," she said. "It's important that if we are talking about our services that the people in charge of them are there.

"I think that's fantastic news."

Individual board members were welcome to attend the meeting, Ms Bagge said.

Mr Fleming said there had been no discussion with the board about attendance or not.

The board announced last month that it planned to review general surgical and orthopaedic services at Wairau Hospital as part of a top of the south surgical reshuffle. That could see all acute patients sent to Nelson, reducing Wairau Hospital to elective surgery only. Another option of care raised in a board discussion paper and sent out to staff for feedback was to provide acute services at Wairau Hospital only between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday.

The meeting is at the Marlborough Convention Centre at 7pm on Tuesday.

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