Doctors’ union slams proposed hospital staff cuts

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The hospital doctors’ union is up in arms about planned cuts to the number of medicos at Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital. 

The proposed cuts are based on a “non-existent review”, Ian Powell, boss of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, says. 

Southern District Health Board chief Brian Rousseau announced this month his intention to chop LDH doctors from eight to six. 

The move follows SDHB’s unveiling of a plan for a controversial one-stop health shop with LDH being turned into a public-private partnership between SDHB and Queenstown Medical Centre. 

Cash-strapped SDHB is under Government pressure to wipe out its multi-million dollar deficit and Rousseau has pegged Queenstown’s hospital as “financially non-sustainable”. 

Powell says ASMS “smelled a rat” when SDHB management couldn’t find a 2009 review by its former chief medical officer, Pim Allen, which concluded most attendances at LDH could be safely dealt with in primary care. 

When asked to produce a copy of the Allen review, Rousseau admitted he hadn’t seen it and didn’t have it, Powell alleges. 

The union boss asserts that a letter forwarded by Rousseau from the now British-based Allen shows “the mythical review” was conducted in 2007, not 2009, no report was written at the time, and Allen’s letter provides no statistical analysis from which “robust conclusions” can be made. 

Powell: “It is disgraceful that SDHB has allowed a proposal to be circulated, based on a review that was never written, seeking to radically downgrade Queenstown’s public hospital, in part by cutting senior doctor staffing. 

“Is George Bush running SDHB? The war in Iraq was justified on ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that did not exist. Are we now going to have the destruction of a rural public hospital based on a review that did not exist?”