Mayor buoyed by meeting HNZ boss

Health New Zealand chief executive Fepulea'i Margie Apa and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher in Thames...
Health New Zealand chief executive Fepulea'i Margie Apa and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher in Thames St on Thursday last week.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Waitaki’s mayor feels reassured Oamaru Hospital would be in good hands if returned to Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora after meeting the latter’s chief executive.

Mayor Gary Kircher also rejected the notion the government would close the facility, saying it made no sense to.

Last month the Waitaki District Council decided to enter formal negotiations with HNZ to return Oamaru Hospital, which has been owned and operated by the council since 1999. If all goes well the government could take control by July this year.

HNZ chief executive Fepulea'i Margie Apa met Mr Kircher in Oamaru on Thursday last week to discuss the potential deal.

She also met councillors, Waitaki District Health Services board members and the council chief executive later in the day.

Mr Kircher said he left the meeting feeling reassured HNZ’s desires aligned with the council’s.

He had "no doubt there will be some serious changes in services", but there would be no overall loss in patient outcomes.

There were some services which could be done elsewhere in a more streamlined fashion and others that Oamaru Hospital could increase output on.

Oamaru Hospital’s CT scanner was just one example of a service the health system could be making better use of.

"Nationalising things is often seen as detrimental.

"What it means for health is it gets rid of a lot of artificial borders."

That meant patients needing services from two different hospitals would no longer have to deal with formal processes and could receive better and faster care, he said.

Some members of the community were concerned the government would shut the hospital down in time if given control.

Mr Kircher said although the council was "never going to get an ironclad assurance that they won’t", that was definitely not what HNZ wanted.

It also would not make sense, as the services of rural hospitals were factored into the new Dunedin Hospital design.

"It’s been created with reliance on these hospitals in mind."

If Oamaru shut down, Dunedin would not be able to handle the increase in patients.

He was reassured by the appointment of the new Minister of Health, Dr Shane Reti, as Dr Reti had worked as a GP in Waitaki and knew the area.

"That gives me faith it’s not going to be some faceless bureaucrat in Wellington making all the decisions."

The Government also relied on rural communities for support and politically it would be a bad decision to cut any major infrastructure serving them.