Latest health fix a merger of Frankton hospital with Clyde

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The future of Queens-town’s Lakes District Hospital is again up in the air – with a proposed merger on the table.
Southern District Health Board’s advisory commit-tee has turfed out the DHB’s plan to part-privatise LDH and turn it over to a community trust. 

Instead, the 12-person committee recommends LDH and Clyde’s Dunstan Hospital should merge under a money-saving “regional governance model”. 

The two hospitals might then be hived off into a Central Otago-wide community trust – Dunstan’s already run by a local trust – or become a division of SDHB. 

There’d need to be strict funding guarantees from SDHB, the committee warns. 

The revelations come in a report sent to SDHB boss Brian Rousseau just before Christmas. 

Mountain Scene has obtained a copy of the report, which was to have stayed confidential until SDHB’s February 3 board meeting. 

The findings will disappoint Rousseau, who championed the earlier controversial proposal launched last March. That public-private partnership would have seen SDHB get shot of LDH by flicking it off to a community trust – with GPs staffing LDH’s emergency department and deciding whether patients should be charged. 

Accusations of inadequate consultation by a doctors union forced Rousseau to commission the committee, chaired by Otago University medical professor John Campbell. 

Senior SDHB medicos, LDH hospital bosses, GPs, a nurses union official and a Dunstan Hospital doctor also sit on the committee. 

They were to critique Rousseau’s controversial proposal and also come up with money-saving alternatives.
The committee’s done that – and slammed SDHB in doing so. 

The committee criticises: 

  • SDHB’s “inflexible funding” 
  • the failure to give the committee “sound or complete financial information” – particularly Queenstown’s “population-based funding entitlement”
  • “considerable unfunded costs” imposed on LDH by foreign and out-of-town Kiwi patients
  • LDH’s “lack of visiting specialists” and “continual decline of service”. 

The committee gives the impression Queenstown isn’t getting its fair share of health dollars, saying a new “regional governance group” and SDHB funding staff should establish an accurate “entitlement”. And if a regional trust is established, the committee warns, there’s a danger SDHB may put services “at risk” by underfunding the trust. 

As well as merging the hospitals, the committee says money could be saved by Queenstown Medical Centre GPs running a fee-paying “accident and medical clinic” at LDH from 8am-10pm – providing overnight back-up for hospital doctors. 

Maria Cole of the Wakatipu Health Trust lobby group isn’t enthusiastic. 

“We haven’t come all this way to be unmeshed from SDHB to be re-tethered to Dunstan – that’s essentially what’s proposed.” 

The relationship with Dunstan should develop naturally, she says, “rather than some bureaucracy sticking superglue across the two hospitals”.