Pool grant not enough to sway SDHB

Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin (left) and Bendigo Valley Sports and Charity Foundation trustee Michael Brosnan hope a $50,000 grant could yet lead to a reprieve for the Dunedin physio pool, which is due to close in December. Photo by Peter McIntoshThe trust running Dunedin's physio pool says a $50,000 grant to support the facility should earn it a six-month reprieve from closure. 

However, the plea has yet to sway Southern District Health Board chairman Joe Butterfield, who told the Otago Daily Times the money, while ''a good start'', was not enough to prevent the pool's closure in December.''

That decision has already been made.''

I don't want to knock the $50,000 - I think that's great - but it will need a bit more than that. But that's at least a start,'' Mr Butterfield said.

His comments came after the Bendigo Valley Sports and Charity Foundation, a Dunedin gaming machine trust, announced the grant to the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust yesterday.

Bendigo trust chairman Ian Carter hoped it would allow the pool to remain open for another six months, until mid-2015, while fundraising efforts to save it ramped up.

Pool trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin agreed and said the grant should be a ''significant step'' towards saving the facility.

However, their hopes were dashed, at least for now, by Mr Butterfield's comments later yesterday.

The board announced in July it could not afford to cover a $100,000 annual shortfall in operating costs, as well as the estimated $1 million upgrade cost believed to be required.

Yesterday, Mr Butterfield said the grant did not change the dilemma facing the health board. The pool had to be closed and drained for cleaning, and expert advice was that would cause some of the pool's tiles to fail, he said. If that happened, all the pool's tiles would have to be replaced, at ''significant'' cost, although exactly how big the bill would be was not known.

''While it won't take $1 million straight away, it may well need a fair amount of capital work right there and then. The problem is we just don't know how much that will be.''

Mr Martin, told of Mr Butterfield's comments, disputed suggestions the pool would need to be emptied, and said he was ''still trying to get people to understand that''.

He would ''discuss those issues with the board'' within days, but insisted the grant remained ''a positive step''.

''I just hope the board sees it in a positive light, rather than tries to pour cold water on the idea of keeping it going,'' Mr Martin said.

''We've yet to convince the [board] that we will get the time to do it, but this is the perfect reason for them to allow us the time.''

Health board member Richard Thomson - also a Dunedin city councillor - said yesterday he still hoped the pool could remain open.

The pool trust was talking to Dunedin City Council aquatic services staff to see if cleaning could be delayed until later next year, he said.

That would buy more time, but the board had to be sure people using the pool would not be entering ''a toxic environment''.

''My view is as long as the board can be assured by expert advice that we're not putting anyone at risk ... that's what should happen.''

Mr Thomson, Mr Martin and others were also working on plans to ensure the pool remained open, based on a fundraising drive and community ''ownership'', Mr Thomson said.

Mr Carter said his trust decided to help because the pool was ''a Dunedin icon'', and it was possible more grants could be considered.

''We would certainly be happy to look at anything to keep the thing going.''

Mr Butterfield believed the solution was for ''community outfits'' to ''get in behind the pool trust and support them''.

''We don't want to see it [the pool] go any more than anyone else, but we can't afford it.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Why?

"The pool had to be closed and drained for cleaning, and expert advice was that would cause some of the pool's tiles to fail, Mr Butterfield said. If that happened, all the pool's tiles would have to be replaced, at ''significant'' cost, although exactly how big the bill would be was not known." 

Why would all tiles need to be replaced? Why not just replace the ones that come off, using the same ones if they aren't broken? none off the pool users would complain because the odd tile is different.

And he says "although exactly how big the bill would be was not known" -  if he doesn't know the cost how does he know it's significant? And significant compared to what?

Can't afford it?

I would like them to state a) the alternatives they have in mind for pool users and b) what they are going to spend the "saved" money on that will benefit as many people as much

and to answer this: If they can't afford the pool how come the can afford new admin offices for the 5th time in 18 years and how much the office renovation is costing while the pool and theatres struggle?  

Pool doomed

Sounds to me like there are plans for the site.

They can't afford what?

The pool is just systematic of SDHB spending. The pool is a proven treatment /rehab program for many people. What else, that is of proven benefit to peoples well being, is targeted for removal? The known cost of this treatment option's continuation is less the the cost of 1 fte at non-patient services at head office.

Mental health once had ring fenced funding to prevent loss of treatment services - maybe it's time to ring fence all health money with the focus firmly on health service provision. The systematic problem of spending won't be resolved with the planned move of the finance department to Wellington or Auckland that's is in the wind for early 2015.

How long before this systematic problem ends becomes worse if NZ moves to a single DHB? Could this really happen? Is it moving in that direction? Do some homework - you might be surprised by the results? 

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