Hospital downgrade fears

Views diverge sharply about whether Dunedin Hospital should become a lower-grade hospital, or should try to hold on to its existing status, feedback on a new Southern District Health Board strategic plan indicates.

Part of the planning process for a new clinical services building at Dunedin Hospital, the strategy has been tweaked after consultation, and is before a health board committee in Invercargill today for approval.

Submitters were ''highly polarised'' on the question of centralising some highly specialised services in Christchurch.

Some felt it made ''good financial sense and were comfortable with SDHB hospitals becoming secondary facilities'', a consultation report said.

Others would resist the move, and feared the flow-on effect for the Dunedin School of Medicine.

A submission from the University of Otago said a suggestion more patients could be sent to Christchurch and Auckland was ''concerning'' and needed to be clarified.

''Many of our joint clinical staff have expertise in sub-specialty areas and we see strong potential for Dunedin Hospital to act as a regional referral hospital for some sub-specialty areas.''

The ''tension identified'' on specialist services meant striking a balance, the report said.

''While the DHB and Otago University have complementary and mutually supportive aspects, it is important to recognise that they are separate organisations with differing functions, objectives, demands and governance.''

Because of the lack of detail and ambiguous language, the extent of a potential change for Dunedin Hospital is unclear.

Many people felt they could not give meaningful feedback because of the plan's unhelpful use of dense health jargon.

Complaints about not understanding it were among an ''overwhelming'' number of references to language, the summary report said.

''Many expressed scepticism that the consultation was meaningful, or that the plan would be implemented.

''However, positive comments were made! Many thought the plan was a good start, and congratulate the SDHB on its delivery.''

All up, the plan attracted more than 900 comments and responses, including 93 written submissions.

Most were comments gathered at community meetings; more than 200 were from an online survey.

Other issues canvassed included the role of rural hospitals, making use of the primary care system, and the population-based funding model.

If approved by the community and public health committee, the plan will go to the full board for sign-off next month.


Southern strategic health plan

• More than 900 written submissions and comments received.

• Polarised views in the South about future role of Dunedin Hospital.

• Some comfortable with downgrade of Dunedin Hospital and more services centralised in Christchurch.

• Plan approval essential part of planning Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

• Submitters criticise lack of clear language in plan.

• If approved by committee, full board will consider sign-off next month


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