Workshop on health plans

The Ministry of Health's integrated family health centre (IFHC) team will hold a workshop with Southern District Health Board management and clinicians this month to discuss Wakatipu health services.

The meeting is the latest step in the controversy surrounding the future of health services in the region.

Board management is keen to develop a "one-stop shop" for the district, combining hospital and a variety of other services on one site, either by revamping the Lakes District Hospital at Frankton or on a new site.

In a report prepared for the district health board's monthly meeting in Invercargill on Thursday, chief executive Brian Rousseau says the ministry workshop will explore how the IFHC team can assist the board to " achieve our objectives in the Wakatipu and other areas in our region".

A meeting was held with ministry and National Health Board officials last month to discuss the development of IFHCs in the region, he said.

The centres were "an essential element" in achieving the Government's "Better, Sooner, More Convenient Care" objective, he said.

The ministry had advised it was establishing a small team dedicated to help boards across the country develop IFHCs.

One of the objectives of the planned workshop would be to allocate tasks and responsibilities for the progress of various parts of the work between the board, the ministry and the National Health Board, Mr Rousseau said.

His report, which is for noting in the public part of the meeting, included a diagram labelled the "IFHC Development Pipeline" which he described as a " preliminary depiction" of the processes seen by the ministry and the National Health Board as being required to support the development of IFHCs. The early part of the process shown referred to implementation support and included such statements as "deliverables and timelines agreed with stakeholders", "memorandum of understanding for locality signed", without spelling out who would be involved.

There was no indication on the diagram what stage had been reached by the board in the Wakatipu case.

The board has not discussed the IFHC proposal publicly, although it has featured regularly on the closed session of its agenda.

Last month, a focus group was formed to explore how costs could be reduced at Lakes District Hospital in a way which did not involve cutting staff.

This followed concerns from the doctors' and nurses' unions about management's March proposals to reduce access to the hospital's emergency department from July for people with non-urgent conditions who turned up between 8am and 10pm. Management estimated this could save up to $500,000 a year, the result of staffing reductions, but staff said it would be unsafe.

The cuts are on hold while the focus group carries out its work.


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