Panel pushes for major Queenstown hospital upgrade

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Lakes District Hospital should be reinvigorated to become the Wakatipu basin’s major “health campus”, an expert panel is recommending.

The National Health Board-appointed panel unveiled its surprising new proposal at a public meeting in Queenstown tonight – and the community is set to be the winner.

In what looks likely to put an end to any long-standing local uncertainty over the health debate, the panel proposes big changes for the future of primary and secondary services. Among the 21 recommendations, the panel says:

• LDH should be expanded and developed at its existing Frankton site to incorporate diagnostic services like laboratory and radiology, and have a CT scanner
• LDH should retain an emergency department
• LDH should become a “centre of excellence” for training rural health practitioners
• SDHB should invite all appropriate providers to relocate to the LDH site
• SDHB should maintain a minimum roster of eight medical full-time equivalents – of which one or two could be registrars
• SDHB encourages the further integration of services in the region – including sharing resources, stronger clinical engagement between Dunstan Hospital and LDH
• LDH should expand the local and regional provision of outpatient services to better meet the needs of the Wakatipu region
• SDHB should encourage the development of more capacity in aged residential care beds, and LDH should develop palliative care bed capacity
• SDHB retains governance of LDH – including the funding and provision of health services
• Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Wakatipu Health Trust and the Wakatipu Health Governance Reference Group sets up a “community reference group” – which SDHB commits to engaging with overtime.

Several of the recommendations fly in the face of the SDHB’s controversial solution which was unveiled in 2009. Back then, the proposal was to build an “integrated family health centre” which would save money by reducing the numbers of doctors and nurses at the hospital and let local GPs decide if patients go to the emergency department or get seen via general practice.

“The panel was struck by the lack of coordinated long-term regional planning and development of clinical pathways that reflect the community and patient needs, rather than historic governance geographic boundaries,” the report says.

It adds: “The National Health Board has confirmed with the panel that the package being proposed has been costed and, over time, will not cost the SDHB any more and will provide more healthcare services to the population of the Wakatipu basin.

“Indeed, the NHB believe that with better cooperation between Dunstan Hospital and LDH and more innovative practice, better value for money can be achieved.

The panel says the SDHB must “deliver” on the recommendations and improvements for the review to succeed. The DHB meets in Queenstown on Friday to discuss the recommendations.