Save our services

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 11:30 25/02/2013
Wairau Hospital
Emma Allen

Wairau Hospital

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A public meeting has been called to discuss a possible reduction of services at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

The Save Our Services group, headed by grape grower Stuart Smith and Marlborough District Councillor Jessica Bagge, said they organised the meeting after members of the public and hospital staff expressed overwhelming concern about the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's plan to review services at the hospital.

The meeting will be at the Marlborough Convention Centre at 7pm next Tuesday, March 5.

The board announced last month that it planned to review general surgical and orthopaedic services at Wairau Hospital.

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.

Mr Smith said a panel of health and business professionals would present their views at the meeting.

The panel is former Wairau Hospital surgeon Stephen Vallance, former Kaikoura MP and doctor Lynda Scott, Marlborough Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Brian Dawson and Grey Power Marlborough president Colin Draper. Business consultant Tony Smale is to chair the discussion.

Save Our Services will invite health board members and new board chief executive Chris Fleming to the meeting.

Mr Smith said he set up Save our Services after speaking to hospital clinicians, who expressed their concern at the review.

"We do not believe all the options have been explored, and that the board has fallen down a bit on governance. They need to question everything that comes before them."

Ms Bagge said she realised the "enormity" of the issue after speaking with people who had the appetite to protest and petition against any reduction of services in Blenheim.

"The noise we make now will influence the outcome," she said.

Mr Smith said the meeting was a forum for people to put their views across.

"We don't want this to deteriorate into a shouting match," he said. "What we want is a really good airing of the issues."

Hospital staff have until Thursday to give the board feedback on the discussion paper sent out last month. This will be used to write a proposed model of care to go to the executive leadership team and the board next month.

Formal consultation will be done in April.

Mr Smith is tipped to run for the National Party candidacy in the next general election, but has yet to formally declare. Ms Bagge has ruled out running for mayor. Asked if Save Our Services was preparation for a political run, Mr Smith and Ms Bagge said their involvement was not political.

The public meeting at the Marlborough Convention Centre on Tuesday March 5 starts at 7pm.

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- The Marlborough Express

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