Top Wellington officials have waded in to resolve the “great uncertainty” surrounding Wakatipu healthcare.
The all-powerful National Health Board has appointed a panel of experts which will start next week to shape the future of local health services.
The new panel will be chaired by Peter Foley, former president of the New Zealand Medical Association, and will include an emergency department specialist from outside Otago-Southland.
Long-time former Consumer Institute boss David Russell will be the panel’s consumer representative.
The panel will hold community and health sector meetings and workshops before recommending the best structure for primary and secondary health services by the end of July.
“We recognise there’s great uncertainty presently and we want to resolve this,” NHB deputy national director Michael Hundleby says.
“The community wants tangible outcomes and has been frustrated by the process to date,” he adds.
Wellington’s move comes after to-ing and fro-ing by the new Southern DHB over Lakes District Hospital.
For 14 months, Southern DHB has been unsuccessfully trying to sell its controversial plan to turn LDH into a part-privatised “Integrated Family Health Centre” – effectively a one-stop-shop – with Queenstown Medical Centre doctors screening Emergency patients over whether they warrant free treatment or should pay GP fees.
Mountain Scene’s scene.co.nz website broke the news this morning of Hundleby’s arrival today (Tuesday) to meet mayor Vanessa van Uden and various interest groups before further details were released this evening.
Hundleby says SDHB asked the NHB to take over the process of reshaping Queenstown healthcare.
Mountain Scene: Why?
“Because they felt an independent view was likely to mean the process could move on in a more constructive manner.”
After saying he’d had a “very positive” reception from those he’d talked to, Hundleby was asked whether people felt they weren’t being listened to by SDHB.
“It would be fair to say SDHB asked us to come and have a look at this so that, you know, it’s an independent process and it’s seen as independent and – yeah, that’s the answer to that question.”
MS: Will this new panel start with a blank sheet of paper?
“All the stuff that’s gone beforehand is obviously base material that the panel will have access to – but the panel is charged with using its expertise in coming up with a firm recommendation.”
MS: So if it chooses, the panel can come up with a whole new healthcare model?
Hundleby hopes the entire process results in consensus but if not “the panel will make a recommendation”.