'Botched' plan slated by doctors

Ian Powell
Ian Powell
The need to commission yet more expensive planning work at Southern District Health Board is evidence of leadership in the style of Fawlty Towers, senior doctors' union head Ian Powell says.

Yesterday the Otago Daily Times reported a strategic plan had been recommissioned by the Ministry of Health on behalf of the political appointees overseeing the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment. The public was told the first plan, launched earlier this year, was an initial step in planning the long-awaited clinical services rebuild. It was supposed to have spelt out the area's health needs for a decade, forming a base on which to plan hospital services in Dunedin.

Mr Powell said the first plan, costing nearly $314,000, had been ''botched up''. It was launched by then chairman Joe Butterfield, who along with board members was sacked by Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman in the middle of the year.

Mr Powell said the plan needed to be redone, but he believed private consultants should not be called in a second time, as there was expertise in the board. The work is likely to be secured by private consultants again, as a ''request for proposal'' has been issued. The contract includes the more detailed planning stages that come after the strategic plan.

Lacking a ''tangible focus'', the first plan contradicted itself, and had a confusing message about the future relationship between GPs and hospitals, Mr Powell said.

''I would describe it overall as leadership by Fawlty Towers.''

Mr Powell believes the request for proposal document contains ''coded'' reference to service cuts.

''There are things here that make me a bit nervous.''

It talks of a need for a ''shift'' in how southern healthcare is delivered, and the new hospital is an ''opportunity'' to effect the change.

''That's generally code for suggesting a reduction of services under the guise of doing things better in a different way,'' Mr Powell said.

He warned about the make-up of the politically appointed group overseeing the project. Called the Southern Partnership Group, only one of the four appointees lives in the South Island.

''It feels like that's the kind of partnership you're having when you're not having a partnership.

''It suggests ... the process is going to be centrally driven, which increases the likelihood that the needs of the Otago and Southland populations won't be given the due consideration that they deserve.''

Mornington Health Centre manager Jo Rowe said GPs had little involvement in the first plan, and she hoped things would be different this time.

The lack of communication was a concern.

''I don't know anybody who was involved in it.''

The first plan had been a ''good waste of money'', Mrs Rowe said.

It had not explained things like how money would follow patients when more procedures were shunted out into the community.

''Communication is key to the success of any change process,'' she said. Contacted yesterday, Mr Butterfield said much effort went into the first plan, including numerous public meetings. However, if more work was needed to prepare for the new build at Dunedin Hospital, then it would have to be done, he said.

Mr Butterfield emphasised he was no longer involved with the issue. Southern Partnership Group chairman Andrew Blair told the ODT last week the new plan would draw on the first plan.


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