Ex-mayor gives parting shot to DHB

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On his final day as Queenstown mayor, Clive Geddes mailed a written missile to Southern District Health Board. 

An October 8 letter leaked by another party reveals Geddes telling SDHB to stop stalling and answer “two fundamental questions” about Lakes District Hospital. 

Geddes: “Is SDHB prepared to hand over [running LDH] to a local board of governance? Will the assets of LDH also be passed over to the community?” 

Under financial pressure, SDHB early this year dropped a bombshell by floating a public-private hospital partnership with local GPs. 

The plan would create a New Zealand precedent by part-privatising LDH, with GPs deciding whether arriving patients were genuine emergencies and charging fees to those who weren’t. 

It was publicly panned and also drew flak from medical unions, forcing SDHB into a “clinical review group” consultation which is dragging on. 

“The DHB must commit to the principle of local community governance,” Geddes’s letter says – but the review group advocates provincial control, he warns. 

Half the 12-person review group are “out-of-towners who may or may not have a real interest in our community except in a broader political sense”. 

Geddes accuses SDHB of downplaying support for local control of LDH in public forums and submissions. 

Whether the hospital will be community-controlled and whether the Wakatipu must shell out for it are crucial to “developing a service delivery model that will fit within a budget”, he says. 

LDH land and buildings are worth $18 million, according to rates records, but Queenstown’s council is already over-borrowed, the Auditor-General says. 

Asked this week about the mayoral missive, SDHB chairman Errol Millar says he’s disappointed at the nature of it. 

He and Geddes have always corresponded as “‘dear Errol, dear Clive’”, he says, yet “on the day he leaves office, I get what I’d describe as a fairly legalese-sounding letter addressed to ‘Mr Millar and board members’”. 

He’s written back to new mayor Vanessa van Uden but couldn’t provide a copy of his reply this week. 

Millar wouldn’t say how he’s answered Geddes’s “two fundamental questions” about LDH.