A strategy to change the future of healthcare in Marlborough and Nelson

Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

In less than two decades there will be enough demand to fill a third hospital in the Top of the South, but the region's health board says there is neither the funding nor the workforce for one.

It is just one of many challenges identified in a study on the future of healthcare in the area, as an increasing population tests already stretched health services.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has found demand for beds at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, is expected to increase by 48 per cent by 2033, and at Nelson Hospital by 68 per cent.

Nelson Hospital.
BRADEN FASTIER/FAIRFAX NZ

Nelson Hospital.

More than 70 extra GPs would be needed to cope with the growing number of patients if nothing changed, the study said.

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The board released a Draft Primary and Community Health Strategy, which identified future challenges and proposed solutions, and invited the public to discuss the draft at a series of public meetings.

Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester at the Blenheim health hub.
FAIRFAX NZ

Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester at the Blenheim health hub.

Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester, who helped write the draft, said the public meetings were a time for Marlburians to ask questions or talk about issues they would like greater clarity on.

"It's really about what they are passionate about. We welcome people to come, it's a great opportunity to hear what people want and what people are planning."

The draft was available on the board's website.

Hospital Services Support Group chairman Walter Scott said he would be attending the meeting next week to speak on the draft, and listen closely to what Marlburians felt were priorities.

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Scott was working on improving transport options for patients, especially the increasing elderly population, and worked closely with the Marlborough Sounds Community Vehicle Trust.

He was also going to speak about the support group's purpose regarding complaints, compliments and comments about Wairau Hospital.

"If people have complaints and problems with their time at hospital, we're there to help them sort things out."

The strategy outlined in the draft plan described a model which drew patients away from hospitals and general practices.

Board chief medical officer of health Dr Nick Baker said at a board meeting on Tuesday there seemed to be a culture where people went to Wairau Hospital instead of a GP.

However many people did not have access to a GP, for a variety of reasons including cost and being unable to find a GP to enrol with, Baker said.

A priority in the draft was the expansion of Blenheim's new health hub, where people could make one visit to a "one-stop shop" of "wrap-around" support from several community groups, specialists and health agencies.

People with complex health needs or who were struggling financially would receive more funding to help them achieve equity of health.

People with a Community Services Card would get free or nearly free healthcare.

There were six public meetings scheduled. The Blenheim meeting would be held at the St John building, 93 Seymour St, at 6pm on October 5.

 - The Marlborough Express

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