DHB exports patients in their droves

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Almost two out of every three Queenstowners hospitalised are taken out of town – and that’s official.

The latest evidence of under-resourcing at Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital comes straight from the horse’s mouth – Brian Rousseau, boss of the Otago-Southland District Health Board which runs LDH.

Rousseau’s revelation comes a week after a scathing Wakatipu Health Trust report on LDH being shortchanged by the DHB.

Approached yesterday for comment on the WHT report, Rousseau told Mountain Scene he’d just sent an eight-page letter to the trust’s Maria Cole – which he released under the Official Information Act.

Rousseau tells Cole the out-of-town hospitalisation stats show “the location where the Queenstown region population have received hospital care” for the 07-08 health year.

Of 1894 Wakatipu residents hospitalised, only 692 – just over a third – became LDH patients. The other 1202 went to out-of-town hospitals.

The majority were transferred to Southland Hospital or Dunedin Hospital – 736 to Invercargill, 236 to Dunedin.

Another 127 patients went to “other New Zealand” hospitals and a further 99 went private.

A staggering 86 Wakatipu mums were admitted to Southland Hospital with birthing complications – another 48 went there for caesareans.

Southland Hospital also had 105 Queenstown patients categorised “Long Stay – General Surgery” and another 157 called “Long Stay – Orthopaedic”, or broken bones.

Pity, too, the parents of 91 Wakatipu kids admitted to Invercargill as “Paediatric Medical” and “Paediatric Surgical”.

Surprisingly, Rousseau’s figures significantly bolster WHT’s claim of the DHB deliberately shortchanging Queenstown’s LDH in order to shuttle Wakatipu patients to Invercargill – to garner Ministry of Health payments to fund the over-built and over-budget Southland Hospital.

Rousseau’s figures may also weaken a criticism he makes to Cole of her trust’s report – for not assessing “socio-economic status on the need for hospital services” in Queenstown with its “average decile of 2.63 (ie in the most affluent 26.3 per cent of NZ population)”.

“There’s strong evidence private [health] insurance uptake increases with increasing household income”, citing 59 per cent of households “in the highest quintile” having health insurance, Rousseau says.

His own hospital stats show just five per cent of Queenstowners went to private hospitals.