Health review is in a sickly state

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The professor heading a think-tank on Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital has broken ranks with the health board which appointed him. 

Otago University professor John Campbell’s 12-person “models of care advisory group” was established by Southern District Health Board to critique its own controversial plan for LDH. 

This week, Campbell is going against SDHB by saying who runs LDH should be decided ahead of how the hospital will be run. 

“The model of care is going to be dependent on what the overall [governance] structure is,” he says. 

“It’s difficult to lay down firm rules about what [LDH’s] service delivery should be until, for example, the governance structure is sorted.” 

SDHB has previously stalled calls to entrust LDH to a community governance board and allow such a new board to shape hospital care. 

The suspicion is that SDHB first wants to entrench its own money-saving model of care. 

Creating a national precedent, SDHB’s plan would part-privatise LDH, with GPs deciding whether patients are genuine hospital emergencies – and charging fees to patients who aren’t. 

Campbell openly discloses financial links with SDHB – “50 per cent of my work is clinical work with SDHB so they pay the university 50 per cent of my salary”. 

His advisory group includes four senior LDH people, among them manager Norman Gray, two SDHB Invercargill employees, local GPs Val Miller and Hans Raetz, a New Zealand Nurses Organisation advisor, a Public Service Association rep and a Dunstan Hospital doctor. 

Campbell’s chicken-and-egg comments follow revelations last week that outgoing Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes challenged SDHB to say whether they’d hand LDH over to local governance. 

Campbell’s advisory group would otherwise “only be able to make recommendations in a vacuum”, Geddes told SDHB chairman Errol Millar. 

Wakatipu Health Trust is also pushing for LDH governance to be finalised first – and the new governance body then thrashing out how to run the hospital. 

Frontperson Maria Cole quickly seizes on Campbell’s comments. 

“Professor Campbell is a DHB appointee so they can hardly dismiss what he says – and he’s 100 per cent correct.” 

Finalising a care model before a governance structure “puts the cart before the horse”, she says. 

Meanwhile, a Campbell advisory group member has criticised Campbell’s chairmanship in a letter to SDHB leaked to Mountain Scene. Nursing union rep Cathy Gilmore – a former LDH manager – accuses Campbell of steering discussion “towards particular outcomes”. 

Campbell rejects that – “I’ve got a completely open mind”, he says, adding there’s been a “very constructive” group meeting since Gilmore’s letter. 

Campbell disagrees with her claim that the group won’t meet its year-end deadline and hopes they’ll confirm a draft report in early December. 

However, the report will cover interim findings only, Campbell says, and he favours telling SDHB plainly that governance must be settled before finalising the care model.