Patients at risk – SDHB

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Health boss’s chilling prediction

Budget cuts, service cuts, staff issues – all leading to “concerns for patient safety” at Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital.

That’s the grim prescription for Wakatipu healthcare and it comes from the very top of Southland District Health Board – big boss Brian Rousseau.

His stark warning comes in official papers for today’s SDHB board meeting.

As Mountain Scene revealed on July 30, SDHB is being heavied by the Ministry of Health to balance its budget.
Despite setting up a cost-cutting team, Rousseau is still forecasting a loss of $5.4 million for SDHB’s 2010-11 financial year – and the MoH is demanding more cuts, he advises board members.

“[But a] reconfiguration of services would be required to achieve further savings,” Rousseau warns SDHB.
He then notes “concerns for patient safety as a result of staffing issues in the more remote rural areas”.

“More remote rural areas” is SDHB and MoH code for Queenstown and Gore – “staffing issues” implies further reductions of LDH’s already-stretched staff.

Asked to comment on the revelations, Maria Cole of the Wakatipu Health Trust action group confesses “outrage”.

“With a total SDHB budget of around $220m, they’re trying to find $5.4m in further savings – that’s about 2.5 per cent.

“And it looks like they’re trying to take a large chunk of that saving out of their miserly expenditure in Queenstown.”

Cole repeats her contention that the Wakatipu is already drastically short-changed on health funding because the MoH understates our population by 40 per cent.

“So how can they justify cutting services in Queens­town? It’s time Invercargill took some bad medicine
instead of it all having to be taken by Queenstown.”

The Wakatipu is growing while Invercargill’s population is declining, she says.

Being treated like a hick town also sticks in Cole’s craw – even Health Minister Tony Ryall writes about the resort as “a remote rural area”, she claims.

He should count the number of international flights coming into Queenstown every weekend, Cole says.

“This [cost-cutting] news motivates me to redouble our protest efforts – without question.”