Fight to retain hospital services

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 14:00 26/02/2013

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Marlborough needs to be represented at the table when the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board makes its decisions on services at Wairau Hospital, Kaikoura MP Colin King says.

He and Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman were working to make sure they were involved when the decisions were made about Wairau Hospital's services.

"I respect people's desires to air the matter thoroughly in public meetings, but my view is that we need to be around the table to get best possible outcomes for Marlborough.

"I would just urge people as they have their public meetings to make sure we still retain that position at the table. Don't scare the horses, keep the powder dry to get the very best outcomes."

A public meeting, at the Marlborough Convention Centre at 7pm next Tuesday (March 5), 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 district health board's plan to review services at the hospital.

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.

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 King said yesterday that he did not want to see "Nelsonisation" but "regionalisation".

"There's a history of this sort of thing."

Wairau Hospital was a fantastic facility, he said, and Blenheim was a community with a very high percentage of elderly people.

Marlborough and Nelson were not like other health board consolidations. He said there had been huge controversy over the consolidation of services between Hastings and Napier, which were a 20 minute drive from each other.

"The Whangamoas, even on a good day, are not an easy drive."

Mr King said it was a real problem that Marlborough was still considered as rural or provincial and the district health board had difficulty attracting and retaining professionals.

"It defies logic that we believe we live in one of the best places in New Zealand when we can't get support to provide doctors and surgeons with a lifestyle that is fair and reasonable so they are not overworked."

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- The Marlborough Express

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