You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Angry West Coast senior doctors say the Government's plans for a public/private partnership to fund Westport's new integrated family health centre (IFHC) will suck millions of dollars from health care.
They vented their fury about the 'secret' deal today less than an hour before a public/private deal involving the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) was confirmed.
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) executive director Ian Powell said the DHB was being forced to lose its land - the Buller Hospital boiler site in Pakington Street - to ACC.
ACC would then build an IFHC and lease the facility back to the DHB.
"West Coast senior doctors are distressed and angry about the financial foolishness of this shoddy deal and that money that should be spent on West Coast patients will be siphoned off to pay a third-party investor," Mr Powell said.
"The deal is being brokered by a so-called partnership group, on behalf of the Government, and the DHB has been sidelined in the whole process."
Mr Powell said he understood the partnership group initially sought private finance for the $10 million [now $12m] redevelopment, but was unable to find a private financier. ACC then decided to step in and invest in an additional revenue stream.
The Government, through its partnership group, was pointing a loaded gun to the DHB's head, Mr Powell said.
The board was being forced to rubber-stamp a decision that would end up taking millions of dollars away from patient care on the West Coast.
ACC would be operating like a private firm seeking profit.
"This is not a case of one government agency giving another one a helping hand."
A crucial factor was the rate of return. The ASMS understood between $750,000 and $1 million would go to ACC each year. As well, the DHB had to pay back the Crown under its normal formula for capital works funding.
The DHB would also be responsible for maintaining the new facility.
The lease would be for nearly 35 years, but could be extended to 99 years.
It was an extraordinary situation for a small, cash-strapped DHB, Mr Powell said.
"If this deal proceeds, over time it will strip millions of dollars from health care on the West Coast - yet there's been no transparency or public consultation. It's a secret deal being pushed through, with the DHB expected to live with the consequences.
"The costs of building hospitals and other essential health infrastructure has always been regarded as a core part of government spending. Taxpayers expect their taxes to be used to provide the health care services they need."
Mr Powell called for full public disclosure of the deal and full independent scrutiny of the risks.
Less than an hour after his statement, the West Coast Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group issued a release confirming the funding arrangements for the IFHC.
Partnership chair Cathy Cooney confirmed ACC would own the IFHC and enter a long-term lease with the DHB as tenants.
The Ministry of Health would fund the construction of the IFHC, and be repaid when it was built. The IFHC would then be transferred to the DHB and on-sold to ACC, Ms Cooney said.
"As the proposal involves selling DHB land, the DHB will be required to consult with the local community and get ministerial approval."
The DHB endorsed the funding arrangement at its board meeting last week, Ms Cooney said.
"This is a key milestone in getting this new centre constructed by the first half of 2019. The focus now is on completing detailed design and tendering for the construction works."
The 10-bed centre will be 1632 square metres in size - too small, according to local medical staff.
It will contain six medical and two emergency beds and one maternity and one palliative care bed.
Adult dental services will be included.
The centre will also include a range of outpatient, community and primary care services including GPs, practice nurses, and allied health.
- Lee Scanlon/Westport News