Bitter pill with sugar

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If he wasn’t so genial, you might think new Southland District Health Board chairman Paul Menzies is telling Queenstown to get stuffed.

“I certainly don’t want to give anyone a slap in the face,” the Winton lawyer says.

Mountain Scene was speaking to Menzies about four major missives in his letter last month to Wakatipu Health Trust, rejecting outright its bid to take over SDHB’s Lakes District Hospital in Frankton.

Menzies Missive No 1: “There is no expectation [population-based health] funding is divided up and distributed to services locally in each sub-region.”

Missive No 2: “This means small communities have to travel to access secondary and tertiary level [health] services.”

No 3: “Queenstown is at that stage in its life cycle where its population size and needs do not warrant a major hospital development.”

Killer punch: “[SDHB] could not agree to any [health] service arrangement in Queenstown that would negatively impact on regional service planning and delivery.”

Meaning if SDHB lost Queenstown health dollars, that would negatively impact on Invercargill and Southland?

“[It would] disadvantage the whole of the health system,” Menzies says.

Part of every SDHB health dollar goes towards sophisticated care such as heart operations or neurosurgery – “things which are never going to be delivered in Queenstown, or even Invercargill,” he says.

“To get down to [population-based funding for towns] of 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 people just can’t be done.”

Cutting LDH loose to be run by the health trust would also “cause problems in Queens­­­­­­­­­­town”, Menzies says – because bulk-funding LDH with the same money SDHB spends there now “wouldn’t be enough money to run the hospital”.

Come on, at least sugar the pill, Mr Health Boss.

“We’re well aware [the Wakatipu] is the growth centre for Otago-Southland and that the provision of health services for that area requires some re-thinking.”

When, when? Menzies awaits a long overdue “hospital capacity review” within a few weeks.

The snubbed Wakatipu Health Trust owns $600,000 worth of medical equipment at LDH – what if they pull it out in a huff?

“We’d hope they wouldn’t do that, that wouldn’t be a good thing for anybody, including [patients] who attend LDH,” Menzies says.

“LDH’s [emergency department] is a very busy place these days.”

Is Queenstown up itself? “No, no, like any community [it’s] trying to do the best for itself, I don’t blame you for doing that.”

With an Arrowtown holiday home, Menzies says he knows the Wakatipu well and has friends and law clients here.

“Just treat me kindly,” he tells Mountain Scene.