Health board’s ’embarrassing’ U-turn


Last week it was “simply not possible”.

Now, after pressure from stories in and the ODT, the Southern District Health Board has been shamed into announcing public feedback meetings in Queenstown, Wanaka and Oamaru.

But board boss Carole Heatly won’t admit it’s a U-turn.

“Definitely not,” she snorts.

Last week, we reported Queenstown residents were unhappy “In Your Shoes” sessions, seeking patient and family feedback, were announced for Dunedin, Invercargill and Alexandra but not other centres.

Former Queenstown councillor Kirsty Sharpe, who complained to the board and media about the town’s exclusion from the meetings, says the move to include Queenstown now is a U-turn.

It’s a win for the local community, she says, but the need to go public was a shame.

“I think it shows they are a bit embarrassed about it all.”

Heatly says it’s just good luck the facilitator was available for additional sessions.

“We didn’t know that last week. It was always our intention to come to Queenstown, Wanaka and Oamaru. We just couldn’t do it in the first week. Honestly this is not a U-turn; this has just been really fortuitous.”

The initial decisions on where to hold meetings were based on which centres had the greatest numbers of staff and patients, she says.

Sharpe says that wasn’t clear, but was delighted Queenstown residents now have an opportunity to air their views.

“Congratulations to them for acknowledging us – now let’s hope they take notice.”

She was hopeful, but not confident, of action: ”Don’t hold your breath.”

The board needs to recognise the growing population in Queenstown as well as an increase in tourist numbers, she says.

A board advertising campaign announcing the change says: “We’re delighted that there’s been so much interest from our community, and as a result of this interest, we’ve booked additional sessions.”

Heatly described the sessions as a starting point, an initial conversation about health provision in the area.

“We know we have to look at services, but not just for Queenstown, for all Central Otago. Cromwell is booming – Wanaka is expanding. We will look at the population. What is the age profile? Is it older people, is it younger people, is it mental health problems? That is the work we are undertaking now.”

She acknowledges the board has its work cut out.

“Some people are happy with the level of service; others are dissatisfied. But what patients don’t want to do is wait and travel. Sometimes for specialist services that is inevitable, especially for high-tech, really expensive equipment.”

? “In Your Shoes” sessions will be held in Queenstown and Wanaka on March 14 and in Oamaru the following day. 

Otago Daily Times