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The Southern District Health Board is undertaking a wide-reaching planning exercise for the next decade, which will be used to help plan the Dunedin Hospital rebuild.
Chief executive Carole Heatly said the strategic plan was the first since the Southern board formed in a merger four years ago.
The public will be asked for feedback on the draft around October.
Ms Heatly hoped many people submitted feedback on the plan, which was relevant because it helped shape health service priorities in the South, including the rebuild.
The board needed a region-wide strategic plan anyway, but its timing was ''fortuitous'' in that it fulfilled planning needs for the proposed big-ticket project, Ms Heatly said in an interview with the Otago Daily Times.
The board had to work out what services it needed in Dunedin, including the number of medical and surgical beds required.
That entailed looking at the Otago and Southland district as a whole, including the role of rural hospitals.
However, Ms Heatly said the make-up of services in Dunedin was unlikely to change greatly.
A new hospital would have quite a different layout to meet modern health standards, she said.
In future, more services would be provided close to people's homes, but big procedures would always involve travel to main centres.
''We don't want people to be thinking that they can have cardiovascular surgery done in Oamaru, for example, because they can't.
''They'll always have to come in to big centres for the very specialised treatments.''
Asked if the board should address more urgent needs than strategic planning, such as a reportedly year-long wait for some ultrasound procedures, Ms Heatly said that was outside the scope of the interview.
However, she said the board was working hard to improve radiology, partly by using equipment in Dunstan and Oamaru.
''In the last two years, our waiting lists for diagnostics and for surgery have improved significantly.
''People are being given more treatment and waiting less time for it, and that includes access via our ED departments.''
Strategic health services plan project director Dr Pim Allen said the board had interviewed GPs, non-government organisations, rural hospitals, academics and primary care workers about the region's health needs for the draft plan.
''There will be an overarching direction. This is a plan that looks forward over 10 years or so,'' Dr Allen said.
''We're genuinely wanting input and advice and discussion about the best use of resources to improve health across the population.''
The board was determined to present the document in plain English, as free as possible from health jargon, to enable people to understand it and give feedback, Dr Allen said.