Dummies’ guide to the Wakatipu healthcare headache


Confused by the Wakatipu health services debate? You’re not alone. In advance of next Tuesday’s big public health pow-wow, CELIA WILLIAMS examines the main players

Southern District Health Board (SDHB) 
Cash-strapped and Ministry of Health-funded owner-operator of Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital. Expecting $6.6 million deficit for 2011. Claims no money to increase LDH funding. Instead, planned to part-privatise it, introducing an “Integrated Family Health Centre” possibly with Queenstown Medical Centre. It also mooted a community trust running LDH. Chief executive Brian Rousseau (right) has announced his resignation, effective at end of year. 

National Health Board 

Government superboard charged with improving quality, safety and sustainability of country’s healthcare. Comprises Ministerial-appointed board and Ministry of Health business unit. SDHB asked it to step in to resolve what’s been called the “great uncertainty” surrounding Wakatipu healthcare. Will consult public before a panel’s recommendation to SDHB by end of July. Panel is NZ Medical Association immediate past chairman Dr Peter Foley, Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department clinical director Dr Angela Pitchford and ex- Consumers Institute boss David Russell (right). 

Lakes District Hospital (LDH)
Struggling 21-bed hospital comprising maternity, hospital-level elderly care and acute medical. SDHB proposes limited access to emergency department from next month between 8am and 10pm but NHB has put on hold. SDHB estimates $500,000 savings on annual staffing bill – some savings could assist non-urgent patients referred to GPs. 

Integrated Family Health Centre
Controversial proposed replacement for LDH. Effectively a one-stop-shop – with Queenstown Medical Centre doctors screening patients at emergency department over whether they warrant free treatment or should pay GP fees. Could be at LDH site, or at new Remarkables Park facility. Plan is on hold while NHB investigates. 

Wakatipu Health Trust (WHT)
Local lobby group, spearheaded by Maria Cole (left), battling for fair healthcare. Discovered that Wakatipu’s 19,000 residents get only $181 per head for hospital services – less than half average yearly funding of other Otago-Southland satellite hospitals. Undertook first comprehensive public survey of local healthcare. Wants community-run hospital. 

Wakatipu Health Governance Reference Group
Established by mayor Vanessa van Uden after SDHB encouragement. Impartial, comprises Van Uden, councillors Cath Gilmour and Russell Mawhinney, plus local businessmen and representatives from WHT. Chaired by lawyer Graeme Todd. Has proposed Wakatipu Community Health Board as governance format for local health services. No opinion on IFHC. 

Wakatipu Community Health Board
Proposed governance structure for LDH. May comprise five trustees. Currently out for consultation. Plan for it to possibly take control of LDH by August on hold while NHB investigates. 

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists 
Union for doctors and dentists advocating equal access to healthcare services nationwide. Executive director Ian Powell has warned SDHB cost-cutting plans for LDH will put residents at risk. NHB’s entry has put on hold its review to come up with alternatives to SDHB’s plan. 

Southern Primary Health Organisation
Coordinates and funds primary healthcare across Otago and Southland. Mainly involves medical centres but increasingly involves other providers like physiotherapists, pharmacists, podiatrists and others. Has no Wakatipu representative. 

Queenstown Medical Centre
Run by GPs Hans Raetz and Richard Macharg. Resort’s largest and oldest medical centre. Had consent to build a private hospital with Southern Cross but SDHB asked it to put plans on hold till it evaluated local health services. Supports IFHC. 

Wakatipu Medical Centre
Queenstown Medical Centre rival. Its principal and GP Val Miller (right) has been critical of IFHC and SDHB cost-cutting plans.

Still confused?
Locals are encouraged to attend a meeting next week to help demystify the Wakatipu health services headache. The National Health Board’s independent expert panel tasked with assessing, analysing and planning Queenstown healthcare will explain their plans. The meeting is at Rydges Lakeland Resort Hotel on Tuesday at 7.30pm.