Healthcare olive branch


Queenstown Medical Centre’s takeover bid for Lakes District Hospital proposes a partnership with lobby group Wakatipu Health Trust. 

The surprise suggestion is the centrepiece of QMC’s submission on Southern District Health Board’s plan to hive off the public hospital to a private operator. 

Since the health board announced the move in March, action group WHT has raised fears that QMC has the inside running. 

However, “a [hospital] board of governance incorporating representation from WHT would go a long way [to] achieving community acceptance,” QMC boss Dr Richard Macharg says in his submission. 

“This would be an integrated care centre in which [a] true primary/secondary and private/public partnership would exist and result in significant enhancement of patient care,” he says. 

It would also save time and money, he adds. 

“It would be insensitive and publicly unacceptable for QMC to bid for a tender encompassing all [hospital] services,” Macharg says. 

His submission suggests splitting them into private and public packages. 

QMC would run the private services on a fee basis and a proposed “Queenstown Health Trust” contracted to the health board would provide public services free. 

As the health board’s already outlined, QMC says local GPs would assess arriving hospital patients on a one-to-five triage scale – one being most serious, five least serious. 

Triage one and two cases, plus some triage threes, would be treated free under the public emergency department contract, Macharg says. 

But triage four and five patients, plus remaining triage threes, would be seen by GPs and pay scaled fees.
QMC fees range from $53 for an enrolled adult seen in normal hours to $110 for a non-enrolled patient after hours – a mid-point of $81.50. 

According to Macharg, about 4500 people a year are triaged three, four and five at the hospital so at $81.50 on average, QMC would charge those patients around $360,000 annually. 

QMC would also run district nursing and out-patient clinics, while proposing the trust handles end-of-life/hospice and respite care. 

The QMC boss takes hospital doctors and nurses to task for siding with WHT “to preserve staff positions, service divisions and entrenched practices”. 

Macharg also makes a powerful pitch to the cash-strapped health board. 

“The populist argument that the Queenstown public should have access to free emergency department services for all ailments is ignoring financial reality, government policy and evolving medical-care models.” 

QMC’s plan would significantly reduce the required public investment in Queenstown, he says. 

The health trust hasn’t agreed a hospital governance structure with QMC or anyone else, WHT frontperson Maria Cole says. 

“The trust’s view is that there should be a local board of governance comprising a number of disciplines – financial, legal, clinical, human resources and possibly some others,” she adds.