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”.