Board expects low turnout

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:32 04/06/2014

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Nelson Marlborough's health boss has defended a board decision to hold an eagerly anticipated public meeting revealing the future of surgical services at Wairau Hospital in a small meeting room that holds just 120 people.

The board has caused controversy by booking the meeting in a space below expected public interest levels.

The meeting would inform the public on the recommendations by the top of the south review on the future of general, acute and orthopaedic surgery at Wairau and Nelson hospitals.

It endorsed that 24/7 acute and elective services at Wairau Hospital be maintained.

The review recommends that patients and staff would have to travel more between the hospitals.

Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the board anticipated there would be less direct public interest in the outcomes of the review because there was no threat to services.

Last year a highly charged Save Our Services public meeting at the Marlborough Convention Centre attracted 1000 Marlburians amid board proposals to cut round-the-clock acute surgery at Wairau Hospital.

Bowing to public opinion at the meeting the board withdrew the proposal and agreed to conduct an independent review into general, orthopaedic and surgical services.

The review recommendations would be discussed during the public meeting at the Scenic Hotel Marlborough on June 18 between 5pm and 7pm.

Fleming said the board had booked the 120-seat space based on advice on numbers that were likely to attend the meeting.

"The previous public meeting in early 2013 was held in the context whereby the community was concerned by perceived plans to potentially reduce services at Wairau Hospital significantly, and the public came out in force to give the district health board a very clear message," Fleming said.

"At that meeting the district health board made assurances that we were committed to services at Wairau Hospital, and subsequently committed to the provision of 24/ 7 acute, and elective services at both Nelson and Wairau hospitals.

"While we believe the public will watch carefully how services evolve over the coming years, we have anticipated that there will be less direct public interest in the outcomes of the review due to the fact that there is no threat, either perceived or real, to services across the top of the south."

Blenheim pensioner Jean Mercy, 80, attended the Save Our Services meeting last year and said Marlburians would be eager to see the recommendations of the review.

"We have been waiting and waiting for the board to come up with a plan. I can't believe they have booked a room that holds only 120 people. Are they really serious? I would anticipate a lot more people.

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"We want proper reassurance, I haven't been reassured. People need to go to the meeting to get the full picture of what is going on."

- The Marlborough Express

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