Editorial: Chance to hear the plan

Nearly 1000 people turned up to a meeting in Blenheim more than a year ago to hear the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's new chief executive explain the rationale behind plans to reduce surgical and acute services at Wairau Hospital.

Chris Fleming had been in the job only a matter of days when he fronted up, and appeared surprised by the large turnout, which showed the DHB that it would have a battle if it tried to reduce services at Marlborough's hospital.

Fleming gave an undertaking that a review across the whole board region, including Nelson, would lead to "one service, two sites". More than a year on, the review report has been released, looking at how services can be maintained - and improved - as one service on the two hospital sites.

The 70-page report is heavy on medical and ministry terminology that does not make for easy reading. Fleming and some of his senior team will be in Blenheim on Wednesday night to explain what it means for Marlborough.

After the large turnout for the protest meeting, we need to be there in similar strength to hear the explanation and to ask questions about how our health service will be maintained and supported.

The "one service, two sites" model seems to be the way forward. It will break down parochialism and patch protection, and ensure that specialists and other staff from Nelson travel to fill gaps in Blenheim, and vice versa, when the need arises.

It is not about where the funding is allocated. Scales of economy suggest the cost of running Wairau is higher per patient than Nelson. The important issues for Marlborough are quality of care and timely access to specialist and acute services. This review is about providing that care without sick people routinely having to travel long distances.

Fleming is asking his senior managers to make the one-service model work. Timing could be the only issue, with a long lead time for some of the changes suggested.

Fleming says he is determined to make the service work effectively. It is up to us to support him and the board in that, so let's have a big turnout for the meeting at 5pm on Wednesday to hear this plan boiled down to plain, clear English.

The Marlborough Express