GP’s hospital pass

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A long-time Queenstown GP has a surprise prescription for the resort’s future public hospital needs.

Doctor Val Miller is adamant that Cromwell’s the best location to serve the exploding populations of Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago.

She believes people merely wanting a bigger Queenstown hospital are “short-sighted and slightly arrogant”.

“People are in la-la land if they think a population of 30,000 warrants a full-blown public hospital.”

Miller, who’s also a district councillor, has no problem with a proposed private hospital in Queenstown, “because it’s their business, but if we’re talking about public money, it needs to be given better thought”.

She’s advocating Cromwell as it’s centrally located, has large tracts of flat land it could expand on, has reliable air transport access and has more affordable houses for nursing staff.

“The [Queenstown] nurses can’t afford to live here, anyway.”

Miller advocates leaving Queenstown’s under-resourced Lakes District Hospital as it is, apart from expanding its emergency department.

“We need to be thinking, not the here and now, but the next 20 to 30 years. If you live in one of the suburbs of Auckland, it takes you half an hour or an hour in an ambulance, so [Cromwell’s] no different.”

Fellow Queenstown councillor John MacDonald says: “From a cost point of view, staff housing, staffing, then you probably would be better to look somewhere else.

“But the reality is we’ve got a hospital at Clyde and a hospital in Queenstown.

“If you had a clean sheet of paper, you may look at elsewhere, but we haven’t.”

Southland District Health Board boss Chris Fleming says: “If you just pull out a map, and look where the population is and put a dot on the centre of where that would be, clearly Cromwell is more accessible.

“But I think what people need to understand is it’s about all of the health services across that region, so the concept of not having robust emergency medical/emergency services in a place like Queenstown, I find that quite challenging to understand.”

How wider health resources are configured across the district is “a conversation we have to have the maturity to have”.