Mayor takes issue with health board

Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT files
Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT files

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has criticised the Waitaki District Health Services board for the way it has communicated its review of Oamaru Hospital's kitchen to the public.

Waitaki District Health Services chairman Chris Swann, alongside directors Dr Andrew Wilson, Ian Hurst, Helen Algar and chief executive Ruth Kibble, presented the company's annual report for the 2017-18 financial year at a special meeting of the Waitaki District Council on Tuesday.

The meeting was held the day after the company announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Presbyterian Support Otago to undertake due diligence to provide food services for Oamaru Hospital and the town's Meals on Wheels service, through Oamaru's Iona Enliven Care Home.

Chris Swann
Chris Swann

The announcement followed a review of the hospital's kitchen service, which has been threatened with closure.

In a statement, Mr Swann said the aim of the review was to ensure that the best value for money was being delivered for the long-term sustainability of health services in the district and was part of a joint-review of services at the hospital that also involved the Southern District Health Board.

Speaking at the meeting, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said while the presentation of the report was necessary, the "elephant in the room" was public concern that the hospital's kitchen would close.

He said the company had confirmed the kitchen review, but "didn't really go into the reasons for it".

Mr Kircher criticised the board's communication to the public about the issue.

"There has been a lot of angst out there in the community. Obviously, communication is very important in things like this, but there are a lot of things you can't communicate. I think, around this table, we feel there is more that could be communicated, more around the changes that are happening and the nature of those changes if possible.

"Communication with the public, so they understand ... as much as possible what the hospital is doing, would be very much appreciated. We do think there is more that could be done. We encourage you to do that and be mindful of what you do."

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times after the meeting, Mr Swann defended the way the board had released information relating to the hospital kitchen.

"I thought, in terms of the way it had been released, it was fine. But I take that on board and we will review how and when we comment on these matters going forward."

Mr Kircher also questioned how the money saved would benefit health services in the district.

Mr Swann said the $250,000 a year that could be saved if meals were prepared off-site would be used to fund other services, but did not specify what those were.

"We can put them [savings] back into the business and use that to provide health services in the community."

"It's not all about cost savings, it's about additional revenue. It's about operating more efficiently and more effectively and looking for other sources of revenue for services."

Waitaki District Health Services, a Waitaki District Council-controlled company, owns and operates Oamaru Hospital.


Mayor Gary Kircher- Well done I don't know the ins or outs of this, never read the story but well done, because you are not rolling over and taking it, right or wrong you are standing up and being heard for the people you work for, unlike Cull

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