Hospital’s shakeup group has bed bugs

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Official figures claiming Queenstown hospital beds are under-used are “flawed”, according to a group lobbying for a local health shakeup.

Otago-Southland District Health Board’s long-awaited “hospital capacity review”, released last Thursday, cites only a 50 per cent occupancy rate for Lakes District Hospital’s 21 beds – suggesting “significant available capacity”.

The review also signals that LDH could lose some beds, despite a predicted population growth of 45 per cent in the next 20 years.

The Wakatipu Health Trust, which has been campaigning for better services at LDH, says the DHB figures are wrong.

“Feedback from staff at the hospital indicates the DHB’s meth­­­­od for calculating occupancy is flawed,” the trust’s Maria Cole says.

“There seems to be inconsistency between the figures reported being quoted by the DHB and what they are reporting to the Ministry of Health.”

WHT commissioned an independent “health needs assessment” for LDH by healthcare analyst and former ODHB planning and funding boss Chris Fraser.

His analysis, using Ministry of Health data, found 9.55 of the 10 medical beds are used by residents and visitors – “assuming a best-practice occupancy rate of 85 per cent”, Fraser says.

He’s responding to criticisms of his report by DHB boss Brian Rousseau.

Fraser tells Mountain Scene he’ll meet with DHB consultants today to discuss how they reached their conclusions on occupancy.

The health analyst stands by his report, which highlighted glaring gaps in local public healthcare – including maternity, elderly care, and patient transfers to distant hospitals. On some of Rousseau’s criticisms, Fraser says “we’ll just have to agree to disagree”.

Meanwhile, Cole is also poking criticism at the DHB’s own hospitals review.

“[It] is not addressing the needs of Queenstown and does not isolate and identify the significant development and growth in Queenstown in the next 15 years.

“A ‘review of hospital utilisation’ will not show the crying need for a soundly-based strategic plan of hospital services for Queenstown,” she says.

DHB merger no solution

Merging the Otago and Southland District Health Boards won’t mean a quick fix for Queenstown’s health woes.
That’s the word from board chairmen Paul Menzies and Errol Millar, following Monday’s announcement of a proposal to combine the two DHBs.

The two boards already share one boss in Brian Rousseau and have a joint management team, finance department, IT, human resources and procurement – and now the public’s being asked to comment on a full merger.

Speaking jointly to Mountain Scene on Monday, Southland’s Menzies and Otago’s Millar say Queenstown’s issues won’t be resolved by them joining at the hip.

“The issues that exist in Queenstown will continue to exist, I’ve no doubt,” Menzies says.

“There’re a lot of balls in the air in Queenstown at the moment in terms of the hospital capacity review, funding flow and all that sort of stuff … they will continue whether there are one or two boards.”

But eliminating the “artificial boundary” between the two regions could make it easier for people to access services, he says.

Public consultation on the merger closes on December 11.

– Celia Williams & Frank Marvin