Hospital guarantee from HNZ

Fepuleai Margie Apa and Gary Kirchner. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Fepuleai Margie Apa and Gary Kirchner. PHOTO: ODT FILES
"There is no plan to close Oamaru Hospital or withdraw any current services."

That is from Fepuleai Margie Apa, chief executive of Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora (HNZ), which wants the hospital back from the Waitaki District Council.

Last month, the council decided to formally enter negotiations with HNZ to return the hospital to the Crown. The hospital has been plagued by clinical and financial instability in recent years.

There has been speculation among the community about if HNZ were truly committed to running the hospital, or if it would shut it down in the future to save money.

Ms Apa visited Oamaru last week to meet councillors, Waitaki District Health Services Ltd (WDHSL) board members and Mayor Gary Kircher.

Following the meeting, Ms Apa wrote a letter to Mr Kircher, where she confirmed there was no plan to close the hospital or withdraw services.

"Health NZ is committed to ensuring health services continue for the people of Waitaki."

The reason HNZ wanted to take over was "we cannot sustain the current funding level requested from WDHSL and believe it would be most cost effective for us to deliver care in the short term.

"We do need to ensure that future health service provision is clinically and financially sustainable.

"This means looking at models of care that enable better access for Waitaki communities and reduce the inconvenience of travel that many experience with care."

Mr Kircher said it was a good assurance, but there would never be a full guarantee.

What did give him confidence was how HNZ was working with local groups and how Ms Apa acknowledged Oamaru Hospital was needed for the region.

"It doesn’t make sense to close it, fundamentally."

Waitaki had the potential to gain more than it would lose with the deal and it no longer meant the ratepayer would be keeping the hospital afloat, he said.

The council already had a $2 million loan issued to help keep the hospital running and he expected it would have to loan more if an agreement with HNZ was not reached.