Hospital may face downgrade

 Annette King: Prepared to fight for hospital’s future.
Annette King: Prepared to fight for hospital’s future.

Wairau Hospital in Blenheim is a fantastic hospital and needs someone to fight for it, Labour's new health spokeswoman Annette King says.

A National Government tried to downgrade and close Wairau Hospital 14 years ago, Mrs King said.

"We opposed that and rebuilt it and made sure a good range of services were offered in Marlborough."

The Government is also considering reducing services at Ashburton Hospital, Mrs King said.

"Look out provincial New Zealand, they're at it again," she said.

The board announced last month that it planned to review general surgical and orthopaedic services at Wairau Hospital. That could see all patients sent to Nelson, reducing Wairau Hospital to elective surgery only.

Mrs King said Wairau Hospital could be reduced to a health centre, with a low-level accident and emergency department and a few outpatient services.

"I agree with [Kaikoura MP] Colin King, they need someone prepared to speak out for them around the table . . . If no-one in Marlborough is prepared to do it, I will. I am not prepared to see a fantastic health facility downgraded just to save money."

She knew personally what a fantastic facility Wairau Hospital was, because both her mother and father received excellent care there, she said.

"My family are long-time consumers at the hospital. They had the most amazing services out of the hospital." Mrs King said she would attend the public meeting, to be held on Tuesday at 7pm at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim, to talk about the health board's proposals for the hospital.

Kaikoura MP Colin King said on Monday that he and Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman were working together to ensure Marlborough had a place around the table when decisions on the future of Wairau Hospital were made.

Mr Sowman said yesterday that health services at Wairau were of the utmost importance and he had urged Mr King as the electorate MP to get fully briefed on the issues.

"I too, as mayor, need more information about the review of services for Marlborough.

"So I've undertaken to organise a meeting with him and Marlborough's board members on the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and I've also indicated that senior management at Wairau should feel able to make their views known to us."

It was vital that both the mayor and local MP had a good understanding of the health board's thinking, Mr Sowman said.

"If changes are proposed, we need to fully understand why they are considered necessary and all the implications they could have for Marlborough residents.

"In terms of the wider public concerns, I can only say that I have received an assurance from the health board chief executive [Chris Fleming] that no decisions will be made before consultations with our community. But I do want to make sure that any public debate is well-informed."

The Marlborough Express