Queenstowners voice concerns at health pow-wow

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Wakatipu residents have been promised a transparent, unbiased review of healthcare by the latest group of experts to wade into the debate. 

Local residents got a chance to air their concerns and hear from the independent specialists in charge of making a decision about the future of health services at a public meeting last night (Tuesday). 

Immediate-past-chair of the NZ Medical Association Dr Peter Foley heads the expert panel, appointed by the powerful National Health Board at the request of Southern District Health Board. 

Foley is joined by consumer expert David Russell, Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department clinical director Dr Angela Pitchford and national clinical director for emergency department services, Prof Mike Ardagh. 

The panel is consulting all stakeholders and the community over a nine-week period before they make a recommendation to SDHB in August. 

Speaking to about 80 people last night, Foley said the experts won’t be starting from scratch – they’ll access the vast amount of already-prepared information as well as conducting their own investigations. 

Committed to their “better, sooner, more convenient dogma”, the experts promise they have no preconceived ideas or outcomes. 

“The DHB may have certain agendas but this panel doesn’t,” Foley says. 

“People are asking, ‘What are we doing? Here we have again another consultant group’.

“But this is different. I’m very keen on an outcome-based process here, with your help. 

“I’m happy to be personally taken to task if there’s no transparency. There’s no smoke and mirrors.”
 
The resort’s “unique” visitor numbers and demographics will be considered – the panel plans to talk to Destination Queenstown, the local Brazilian community and smaller communities like Glenorchy about their needs.
Concerned residents talked of the community’s suspicion of bureaucrats, funding models, public-private partnerships and the fate of the struggling Lakes District Hospital. 

“We will be looking at being smarter and looking at ways the current funding model can be more transparent…we are looking at ways to get the truth about funding,” Foley says. 

“We do not have any plans to build a bigger hospital or make the hospital smaller. I can’t tell you what the outcome is because we don’t know. [The IFHC] model is one of the many things on the table. It’s got some pluses for it and it’s got some negatives.” 

Three public forums will be held for people to talk to the panel about their concerns. Dates are: Next Friday (July 1), 11.30am-1pm, St John rooms, Frankton; July 8, 10am-12.30pm, Queenstown Lakes District Council; and July 22, 12.30-2.30pm, at QLDC. 

Foley adds: “The answer has to be found now, because if we fail this chance…then we have missed a big opportunity. Let’s work together, let’s provide input, let’s do the best we can for this community.”