Fears of health cuts as top Wellington official visits Wakatipu


A top health hatchet-man from Wellington wings into Queenstown today (Tuesday) for a round of high-level meetings. 

A local health source fears the worst ahead of the visit by director of District Health Board performance/deputy national director of the National Health Board Michael Hundleby. 

“It sounds extremely ominous. I think we’re about to get the big stick from Government fall squarely on us in the Wakatipu,” the source says. 

Mountain Scene reached Hundleby by phone in Christchurch en route to Queenstown early this morning – he refused all comment until late afternoon. 

During his visit, sources say, Hundleby is to meet mayor Vanessa van Uden, Lakes District Hospital management, Queenstown Medical Centre, and a representative of the “governance reference group” of local councillors and health activists. 

Significantly, Mountain Scene understands Hundleby will not meet the Wakatipu Health Trust – an action group which has been agitating for improved local healthcare for several years.

Queenstown’s burning healthcare question is the future of the resort’s hospital in Frankton. 

Under pressure from Wellington to set up an “Integrated Family Health Centre”, Southern District Health Board plans to part-privatise the hospital. 

Queenstown Medical Centre doctors would screen patients turning up at Emergency to decide whether they should receive free treatment or pay GP fees. 

If the controversial idea goes ahead, there’s doubt over whether the existing hospital will be reconfigured or whether a new building will go up in Remarkables Park. 

The National Health Board was set up within the Ministry of Health by the National Government in 2009 to drive the health dollar further. 

Heading NHB’s terms of reference is responsibility for “the funding, monitoring and planning of DHBs”. 

A little-known cell within the NHB is called the “Capital Investment Committee”, established to develop “the national prioritisation and allocation of health capital funding”. 

Cash-strapped SDHB is already on “critical performance watch” by Wellington.