Woodhouse not convinced on hospital

Michael Woodhouse
Michael Woodhouse
The National Party health spokesman is not convinced building a new public hospital in Queenstown or Central Otago would be the best way to deliver health care services in response to rapidly growing populations.

Dunedin-based MP Michael Woodhouse made the comment on a visit to Queenstown yesterday, alongside other members of the party's health caucus, who met health care providers.

The idea to build another hospital facility - which would have surgical and secondary services - was floated by some stakeholders, as one example of how to develop health care operations in a growing region.

But Mr Woodhouse is not sure it would be the most effective option, given the region's dispersed populations.

"A new base hospital is a concept that has been around; the idea is that building hospital infrastructure would be inevitable, because the area is growing so aggressively.

"But what we have also heard is that is [easier] said than done, because of the dispersed nature of the population.''

He says while the populations in Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell, Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown could one day total more than Invercargill's, those regions are "still separate populations'' with different health care needs.

"To combine all of the medical and healthcare resources into, say, a base hospital by 2035, I don't think is going to be the solution.''

Improving health services in those towns could be a more suitable solution, he added.

Mr Woodhouse pointed out the idea of a new hospital was not put forward at his meeting with Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming.

Last year, Mr Fleming told the Otago Daily Times a full-service, 24-hour base hospital in the resort, or the wider district, would not be an option.

At the time, he said a population of 330,000 would normally have one 24-7 hospital, and the region already has two, and it was not "viable'' to physically resource three.

Funding shortfalls and a "slightly murky'' picture of the future seemed to be the other recurring concerns among health providers at yesterday's meetings, Mr Woodhouse said.

While cash-strapped Southern DHB is pushing its Primary and Community Care Strategy - aimed at growing frontline services like doctors' general practices and pharmacies - to keep people out of hospital, Mr Woodhouse believes investment is needed to ensure primary care workers can deliver on such programmes.

"At the moment, they are coping, but reinvestment is needed in the number and types of skills of frontline health workers.''

"I think a degree of collaboration between primary care providers and the DHB would be a significant advantage; I'm not entirely convinced that everyone is seeing life the same way.''

miranda.cook@odt.co.nz

Comments

Oh dear, aren't we lucky not to have another Nat govt at mo - the same one that destroyed the health service the last decade - never paid nurses or teachers, ran hospital Drs rosters down and underfunded the ambulance services. Now they don't want a much needed hospital (and its services). Dunedin Hospital was only going to be rebuilt (up at Wakari) only as a private partnership.
Whilst Dunedin Hospital is one of our 6 NZ regional specialised & teaching hospitals, its immediate population is 145,000.
Kew Hospital serves 100,000 people of Southland, quite significant. But Central Otago has a population of 60,000 and about the same amount of visitors & tourists (who pay).
Many years ago, it was planned to have a big central hospital at Cromwell. That was planned when they raised the lake. That needs to be looked at again. To scatter services amongst towns will not provide long term care, minor surgery or diagnostic advances. Woodhouses options gives $ to those in the private sector and disadvantages patients.