Mayor sounds warning on hospital cuts

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 07:59 20/02/2013

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Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman has warned the district health board of the "considerable public anxiety" that would be caused by any move to reduce services at Wairau Hospital.

Mr Sowman wrote to the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board this month to say the existing range of services in Blenheim were highly valued throughout the region.

The Marlborough Express obtained a copy of the letter yesterday.

The mayor asked that his letter be put before the board when it meets next month.

Mr Sowman said he wrote on behalf of his Marlborough District Council colleagues.

Councillors had been reassured by a commitment made by board chairwoman Jenny Black that the removal of general surgery and orthopaedic services would not be contemplated by the board, he said.

A discussion paper was sent to health board staff last month as part of a review of services at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim.

Staff have until February 28 to give the board feedback on a range of options that include managing all acute general surgery and acute orthopaedics at Nelson, and reducing Wairau Hospital to elective surgery only.

Another model of care suggested was to provide acute services at Wairau Hospital only between 8am and 4pm from Monday to Friday.

Acute on-call care would be done by surgeons in Nelson between 4pm and 8am on weekdays, and at weekends.

In his letter, Mr Sowman said he wanted the board to be aware of the "depth of concern" that had arisen within the community about the implications of the review.

"This region needs to maintain an emergency trauma team and sufficient surgical specialist expertise to maintain a safe standard of care," he said.

Mr Sowman had met the board's new chief executive Chris Fleming and received assurance that no decisions would be made without wide consultations with the Marlborough community, he said.

"I was given the assurance that solutions are being sought; that the board was not trying to downgrade the service level at Wairau."

The mayor had also met with new Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester and Fran Jessep, Marlborough's representative on the Canterbury Community Trust, which had provided direct support for many health-related community services in the region.

Marlborough's ageing population made it particularly important that health services provided by Wairau Hospital were maintained, he said.

"We wish to place on record the community expectation that a level of service is maintained appropriate to the profile of our population, including our high proportion of older people in Marlborough. We would also take this opportunity to underline the fact that it is not only the services themselves but good patient access to those services that is required."

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The district health board was unable to be contacted yesterday.

- The Marlborough Express

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