WDHS 'under funded'; 'getting beyond a joke'

Jim Hopkins
Jim Hopkins
Waitaki District Health Services is losing money ''hand over fist'' and that must change, a member of the Waitaki Community Hospital Action Group says.

The comment from Greg Nikoloff came at a public forum before a meeting of the Waitaki District Council on Tuesday, when the board of the Waitaki District Council-controlled company that owns and operates Oamaru Hospital presented its half-yearly report.

The company posted a deficit of $566,750 for the six months to December 31, a figure Mr Nikoloff said was unacceptable, as the hospital had been ''underfunded for years''.

''The fundamental issue here is the hospital is losing money hand over fist ... This is getting beyond a joke.

''We believe it is a long-term problem and if it is not solved, we might as well all pack up and go home.''

Mr Nikoloff also criticised the company's ''proposal for change'' document, which involved a staffing restructure and layout changes to improve efficiency at the hospital, and was concerned it would lead to a loss of skilled and experienced staff.

He said he had requested the minutes from the last two years of the company's board meetings without success, and maintained the group was not ''anti what is going on'', but rather not happy with the process.

''We want to be part of the solution, not the problem.''

Speaking independently from the group, Katrina Hazelhurst said the proposed restructure had been ''poorly handled'' and she had been told by some staff they were scared to provided feedback as part of the company's consultation process, for fear their jobs might be in jeopardy if they were to reapply for them.

Cr Jim Hopkins asked Ms Hazelhurst how many staff had approached her with concerns, which she said was ''more than three'', before Cr Hugh Perkins questioned the union's role in the proposal.

Ms Hazelhurst said she had been told by staff their union was ''not as strong as they need [it] to be in these circumstances''.

Group chairwoman Dr Janice Clayton also spoke and claimed that some clinics, such as the hospital's diabetes clinic, had been unable to see patients because of a lack of staff.

She also claimed chemotherapy patients were having to travel to Dunedin for treatment because of the loss of experienced staff.

In response, Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Ruth Kibble, when questioned about the claims while presenting the report later in the meeting, said there had been a single occasion when three people travelled to Dunedin for chemotherapy treatment and that it was not an ongoing issue.

At least one clinic was unable to go ahead because of equipment breaking down, she said.

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