The Southern District Health Board has commissioned a
high-level review of its rural hospital and health network to
underpin moves to offer more services in outlying areas.
Health Partners Consulting Group lead consultant and former
director-general of health Stephen McKernan and his colleague
public medicine specialist Dr Gary Jackson will carry out an
initial service review, to be delivered to the board at the
end of this year.
The public will then be consulted, ahead of the release of
the rural health strategy at the end of next year.
Chief executive Carole Heatly told board members in Dunedin
yesterday rural hospitals would likely be less dependent on
the main hospitals in Dunedin and Invercargill when the
strategy was in place.
By working in tandem, the six rural hospitals would support
each other, rather than viewing Dunedin and Southland
Hospitals as immediate fall-back options.
Ms Heatly said after the meeting she did not think the
strategy would be contentious, because she believed people
saw the need for change.
''I hope that people embrace it for what it is.''
A report to board members said: ''Sustainability and
future-proofing of local health services will require
different models of care and, therefore, alternative resource
Changes of this kind are often contentious and a solid
health-needs analytical foundation is essential groundwork
for informed discussion.
''Awareness of, and sensitivity to, overprovision is as
important as underprovision for DHB planning.''
The review was to have been discussed behind closed doors,
but was shifted to the open section of the meeting at late
notice; the overriding concern of board members was the
Rural hospital managers contacted yesterday were largely
optimistic. Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales
hoped the strategy addressed the problem of Oamaru's CT
scanner being underutilised.
At present, he said, Waitaki patients had to travel to
Dunedin unnecessarily, because Oamaru was contracted for just
two scans a week.
Dunstan Hospital general manager Karyn Penno said the area's
growing population meant the hospital would play an
increasing role in health provision, and she looked forward
''It's really important that the differences between health
provision in urban centres and rural are recognised.''
Clutha Health First chief executive Ray Anton said he might
have feared the review a few years ago, but because of the
national-level push towards care close to a patient's home,
rural hospitals had an assured place in the system.
Mr Anton's main reservation about the process was that its
agenda was finding a solution to Queenstown's health service
configurations, which is still being worked through with
private health providers in a separate process.
''I hope that this rural health strategy is not about
Queenstown. It's about rural health overall in the Southern
Ms Heatly, speaking after the meeting, said Queenstown formed
part of the strategy, but only in terms of its place in the
rural health network.
Rural hospitals would be strengthened by the strategy's focus
on delivering care close to home, which she agreed was
Planned development of day surgery in Queenstown in a
public-private partnership with Southern Cross Hospitals,
which is still under negotiation, would form part of the
As well as avoiding much travel for patients, day surgery
would take pressure off Dunedin and Invercargill.
Dunstan and Oamaru's CT scanners would be better utilised
under the plan.
The strategy would be broad, encompassing the GP and full
primary care sector, as well as hospitals.
The consultants' fee would be less than $40,000, she said.