Tough choices ahead for health board

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:20 19/06/2014

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Nelson Marlborough's health boss has heard loud and clear - the Marlborough community is watching to see that health promises are met.

There were no emotional outbursts during the top of the south meeting in Blenheim last night that had been pegged as part 2 of last year's highly charged Save Our Services meeting.

Marlborough feared cuts to round-the-clock surgery at Wairau Hospital but health board chief executive Chris Fleming said last night he was confident he had returned on his promises.

The board had maintained a commitment to 24/7 acute and elective surgery at Wairau and they had a plan in place for safe and sustainable health services and equity of access to services.

There would be no downgrading, but a committed evolution of services, he said. There was general support for the board's direction on general medicine, general surgery and orthopaedic service at Nelson and Wairau Hospitals. But the board needed to be transparent, the meeting heard.

The public largely left their pitchforks at the door for the meeting last night at Marlborough Convention Centre. About 350 people attended, exceeding the board's initial plan to hold the meeting in a room with capacity for 120 people.

Transport to hospital and access to elective surgery were the chief concerns of the crowd, predominantly made up of seniors.

"One service, two sites" was Fleming's main message.

There needed to be a culture change in the perception of Nelson and Wairau as a "them and us" mentality, he said.

The board's blueprint for the future includes:

One service, two sites.

Identify how registrars can support services across the district.

Review clinical appointments process to ensure district-wide appointments.

Strategy for extending the role of nursing and allied health.

Exploring options of improving staff and patient travel and accommodation options.

Develop model of care for intensive care.

Review laboratory services when contract expires in 18 months.

Develop a funding model to inform future investment decisions.

A long-term financial development plan.

The review was in response to quality and safety concerns, workforce retention and financial pressures the board had been placed under.

Board chairman Jenny Black said the report had been financially neutral but the recommendations came at a price.

Fleming said the board would have tough decisions where to allocate its $420 million budget.

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- The Marlborough Express

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