SDHB plan focus in light of refugees

Taking into account the needs of quake refugees, the Southern District Health Board's annual plan might have to be revised, Neville Cook told the disability support and community and public health advisory committee meeting this week.

With up to 10,000 homes destroyed and perhaps three times that number of people displaced, Otago and Southland must prepare for the possibility some of the refugees already swelling the South would stay, Mr Cook said.

It might be necessary to revise the annual plan to take into account extra demand on health services.

Funding and finance general manager Robert Mackway-Jones advised Tuesday's meeting it was too early to say whether the plan needed to be revised as no-one knew how long the refugees would stay.

Committee member Kaye Crowther said the number of pupils swelling rolls throughout the South was a concern given the extra burden on schools.

Many refugee pupils would need help for earthquake-related trauma, she said.

Public health general manager Pip Stewart, at the meeting to outline the public health body's quake response, pointed out the Ministry of Education was the lead agency for pupils.

Members formally praised the quick public health response, which saw the southern agency capitalise on links with its northern neighbours.

Public Health South had spent the past year building closer ties with the South Island's two other public health bodies, Community and Public Health in Christchurch and its equivalent in Nelson-Marlborough, Ms Stewart said.

In times of crisis the relationships meant a quicker response time.

With the Christchurch premises "red-stickered" because of quake damage, Public Health South took on some of Community and Public Health's responsibilities, particularly through supporting the body's West Coast and South Canterbury offices.

Phone calls for Christchurch were diverted to Dunedin, while Otago-Southland medical officer of health Dr Derek Bell headed to Christchurch to help co-ordinate the emergency response effort.

Ms Stewart was proud of the Dunedin team's response.

Some other work had had to be put aside at Public Health South to focus on the response.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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