Many protest health PPP

A protest against a new health facility in Westport attracted a big turnout on Saturday.

Several thousand people turned up at the protest, according to a post on the Buller Experiment Facebook page.

‘‘Buller, you’ve outdone yourself and well done our strong community!’’

The protest was against a plan to replace a 35-bed public hospital with a 10-bed integrated health centre built by a public-private partnership.

About 2000 people — half Westport’s population — took to the streets to protest, Radio NZ reported.

West Coast MP Damien O’Connor tweeted that hundreds were at the protest.

The Buller Health Action Group is against private ownership of the new facility, as well as its design and location.

‘‘We strongly believe the West Coast District Health Board should own its hospital infrastructure rather than pursue a private-public funding model, particularly if it means proceeding with the current ACC ownership proposal,’’ the group said in a submission to Parliament’s health committee last month.

WCDHB owns its current Buller facilities.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation says the West Coast population is ageing and is not wealthy.

This means there will be increasing health needs.

‘‘Therefore, a reduced and smaller health facility, as currently proposed, is not future-focused and not fit for purpose in this context.

The current proposals should be scrapped,’’ NZNO said.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) said senior doctors supported Saturday’s protest about the ‘‘shoddy decision-making and flawed funding model’’.

The funding model was likely to strip millions of dollars out of patient care in the region, ASMS said.

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