Concerns over lack of hospital progress

Damien O'Connor
Damien O'Connor

The Labour-led Government and West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor are under fire just six months after the general election, with no sign of revised plans for Buller Hospital.

After months of protests and marches last year over the proposed new health centre for Westport, now-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a large public meeting at the Regent Theatre in Greymouth that Buller Hospital would be redeveloped on the existing site, with the $20 million cost funded entirely by the Crown rather than through a public-private partnership.

However, little news has emerged since the election and last night frustrated Westport people flocked to a meeting to air their concerns again.
Mr O'Connor was not at the meeting.

Buller Health Action Group spokeswoman Anita Halsall-Quinlan said in a statement today there was a strong sense of frustration within the community.
There had been no consultation with local people.

About 2000 people turned out on Saturday for a street march through Westport to protest the...
Last year about 2000 people turned out for a street march through Westport to protest the Buller Hospital changes. PICTURE: Charles Bruning

"The whole process has been a public relations disaster. The attitude of the many outsiders involved has been condescending and smug 'as they clip the ticket'."
The Labour Government, and especially Mr O'Connor, who hails from Westport, had "gone quiet" over the whole issue, Ms Halsall-Quinlan said.
Politicians "initially exploited (it) for their own political gain".

"Their pre-election promise of a $20m hospital, which included elderly care, along with robust consultation, has been conveniently forgotten."

While the original plan had changed there had been no increase in the number of beds provided. Six general beds would not be sufficient for the 9000 people in Buller district to be serviced by the new facility, she said.

One room for both birthing and post-natal care was not enough.

"We are being treated like second-class citizens and fed political spin disguised by half-truths. A comparison of what has been provided to hospitals in other small rural areas shows huge discrepancies when compared to what is being offered here."

Before the public meeting, Health Minister David Clark released a statement to the Westport News in what was the first public comment in more than three months on the proposed new Westport health centre.

Mr Clark said he had met last week with Mr O'Connor, West Coast District Health Board chief executive David Meates, and acting director-general of health Stephen McKernan to outline his expectations.

The minister said he was expecting, within the next month, a public meeting in Westport to update the community on progress.

Incoming National Party list MP Maureen Pugh went on the attack this morning.

"The Buller community were stared in the face ... when MP Damien O'Connor and health spokesman David Clark told the community what they wanted to hear, just to get votes," Mrs Pugh said.

"They committed to the redevelopment of Buller Hospital on the existing site with all of the funding (up to $20m) coming from the Crown."

The Labour-led Government had to find "every bit of loose change in order to fund their other election promises but it seems that the Buller community's hopes of a new hospital are not on that list," Mrs Pugh said.

"The Coast is such a safe Labour seat we are clearly dispensable. The Labour Party must fulfil it's election bribe and deliver the hospital it promised the Buller community."

 - by Laura Mills
-- Additional reporting Westport News


Sorry folks @Westport -- Most of your 20 million that could have built your new hospital has just been given away to some of the Pacific Islands --- Hows the Hospital rebuild at Dunedin going?