GP warns cutting resort doctor numbers unsafe

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A senior Queenstown GP warns cutting hospital doctor numbers will impact safety and prompt senior medics to depart. 

Southern District Health Board chief executive Brian Rousseau last month announc-ed the interim proposal for Wakatipu healthcare which could see doctor numbers cut from eight to six and nurses cut from 17.9 to 17.1 full-timers. 

Rousseau said the cuts would be in tandem with a move to turn away from the emergency department patients with ailments treatable by GPs. The change, expected by July 1, would save the cash-strapped SDHB $500,000 annually. 

Long-serving Wakatipu GP Val Miller criticised the plan at last Wednesday’s 400-strong public meeting – hosted by SDHB to update the community on progress towards an alternative health service model. 

“It’s going to take the operating safety standards of the current doctors down,” Miller told the meeting. 

“I’ve spoken to two or three hospital staff who say if two doctors are taken off the staff then other doctors will consider leaving because they won’t have the level of cover that makes it safe for them to practise.” 

Rousseau, who has since formed a committee to look at other ways of making savings without staffing cuts, responded: “If we don’t have to reduce staffing that’s great. But we don’t have a bottomless pit of money.” 

SDHB has proposed a one-stop shop for Wakatipu healthcare either at Frank-ton’s existing Lakes District Hospital or a new site. No decisions have been made.