Health unions are expressing fears about a Ngai Tahu
proposal to invest in Dunedin Hospital.
Ngai Tahu Property announced a proposal last week that would
enable the cash-strapped Southern District Health Board to
fund a much-needed upgrade in Dunedin Hospital.
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive
director Ian Powell said he was sceptical about whether the
public benefited from such arrangements.
Mr Powell said the experience in the United Kingdom of
public-private partnerships in health proved controversial
''Ultimately, they want a return on their investment, so
that's an extra cost to the system and it's getting that
extra cost that can have an undue impact [on services].''
While Mr Powell did not ''doubt their motives'', there would
have to be tangible benefits for Ngai Tahu - as with any
private entity - from its investment.
Health services evolved, sometimes greatly, and being locked
into long-term agreements with an external party introduced
New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial adviser (DHB
sector) Lesley Harry said the union did not support
public-private partnerships, although it wanted more
information about what Ngai Tahu had in mind, especially if
what it proposed was ''unique''.
In general, such agreements privatised profits and
''socialised'' losses, and the union was relieved Health
Minister Tony Ryall appeared to reject the idea when it was
floated last week.
Ngai Tahu Property chief executive Tony Sewell, when
contacted, was bemused by the ''uninformed commentary''
generated by the proposal.
''We're not interested in the provision of health services
... we're interested in the ownership of bricks and mortar
for hospitals that are run, owned, and operated by the
Government - so how can they have misgivings about that?''
What the tribe proposed was completely different from
much-maligned examples in Britain.
Ngai Tahu would propose a long lease, perhaps of 100 years.
''The ones that have been done in Britain are a pure finance
deal between builders and bankers. They're not a deal with a
long-term property investor, and that is the key
Relying on the Government meant Dunedin Hospital waited years
for investment: ''If we were the landlord in there, we'd be
upgrading things because it's our investment - we look after
Asked what Ngai Tahu stood to gain, he said: ''We get rent.
We get a return on our investment. The same as at the moment
Treasury charges the health sector an 8% tax on the use of
Investment returns would be low to reflect the lack of risk
for Ngai Tahu.
''I would suggest that her Majesty the Queen, in the name of
the Ministry of Health, would be a pretty good sort of tenant
Financial efficiencies from the deal could include allowing
Ngai Tahu to manage health board property, rather than having
an in-house property management department.
''I expect the health board to be experts in health, not
experts in property.''
The tribe would further discuss the proposal with all
parties, including the Ministry of Health, the Southern
District Health Board, and unions.
''This is just the start,'' he said.