Hospital guardians set for fight

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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Hawera's hospital "guardians" are steeling themselves for yet another fight to keep the facility the way they like it.

This month, the Taranaki District Health Board announced it was proposing to change the way Hawera's maternity ward is run.

Although the exact details are under wraps, it proposes the unit operates as an "on-call service" when there is no-one using it.

The board says the changes are essential to keep the service sustainable for years to come, while opponents say there is no need to tinker.

South Taranaki health activist Jenny Nager said to go through more proposed changes was "frustrating" and starting to wear a bit thin. Last year, thousands of Hawera residents fought tooth and nail to keep all their hospital services intact.

It was the biggest show of support experienced in the South Taranaki town since the board last tried to change health services.

Their message at the time was simple - the hospital needs to stay the way it is.

"Now we are going through something similar again," Mrs Nager said. "Apparently the current practice is inefficient and unsustainable.

"I hope managers who don't really understand just how services work don't just presume that their ideas to save money will not have unintended consequences."

She said that although she was yet to see the proposal, she was sceptical any change would benefit South Taranaki.

"Once bitten, twice shy."

Board maternity and child health clinical services manager Leigh Cleland said it was only looking at changes to the staffing model.

"It is not about looking at the maternity service provided to mothers," she said.

Ms Cleland said the unit was empty 97 nights during the last year and only had one patient during another 62 nights.

"It is not sustainable to continue to fully staff a unit when there are no patients admitted."

She said south Taranaki families, particularly the women who deliver their babies at Hawera Hospital would not notice a change.

"It is about looking at a staffing model that both ensures the service is continued in the same way it currently is, and is sustainable into the future."

Dr Keith Blayney, who was part of the in-house consultation, said he was not happy with the proposal as it stands, or the claim the ward is only used 50 per cent of the time.

"That comes from an incorrect off-hand claim that half the time the ward is empty.

"There are only a few days a month the ward is empty."

Mr Blayney said the town's lead maternity carers would be offering a counter-proposal.

He said the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, required that any new model of care at the hospital should be proposed and supported by clinicians and community, not just managers.

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Affected staff and Mr Blayney have until February next year to offer feedback on the proposal.

- Taranaki Daily News

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