Queenstown Grey Power keen to grill SDHB

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Southern District Health Board chief executive Carole Heatly is in for a grilling in Queenstown next week if yesterday’s Grey Power meeting in the resort is any indication.

Lakes District Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes was bombarded with questions about the Southern DHB’s long-term plans for health services in the district.

The questions focused on the likely final shape of a draft 10-year strategy for Otago and Southland’s health services released by the DHB last month, and will be discussed at the Queenstown Memorial Centre on November 12. 

Holmes says she was urging as many people as possible to attend next week’s meeting because “a significant decision for this area is going to be made”.

It was important the district’s over-65 population, which had increased by nine per cent between 2006 and 2013, made it clear to the DHB what it wanted from the strategy.

“Let’s all say what we would like, not what they want us to have.”

In September, the DHB announced it had dropped plans for a promised substantial upgrade of the hospital because of the need to pour more than $200 million into the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital.

The Ministry of Health is funding a feasibility study into options for Lakes District Hospital that centre on a possible community trust, a model followed by Otago-Southland’s five other regional hospitals.

Holmes was asked about the range of services a trust-run hospital could provide, how long it would take to begin operating, its location, funding and whether foreign tourists would have to pay for treatment.

The questions were best left for next week’s meeting, she says.

Although small community trust hospitals “worked really well”, it was unclear if it was the right option for a town of Queenstown’s size.

The meeting included a presentation by Remarkables Park (RPL) developer Alastair Porter on the company’s plans to build a “integrated medical precinct” on a site east of the Remarkables Market within two years.

Porter says it will consist of a first-stage, 3000sq m building that would house a cluster of private medical providers including GPs and specialists, operating theatres, a pharmacy and dental care.

It would also provide accident and emergency, radiology, laboratory, aged care and research and teaching services.

He was “reasonably confident” it would go ahead, but it would progress more quickly if the DHB worked with the company on the project.

It made sense for the DHB to sell the existing hospital and focus its resources on a new hospital adjoining the private facility, he says.

“If they want to end the talkfest, the opportunity is there.”

RPL is working with a medical design firm on the building’s plans.

It already has zoning approval and expected to apply for resource consent early next year.