SDHB admits service gap

SHARE

Queenstown’s struggling hospital might eventually get a flash new upgrade – but there are no immediate plans to increase the number of beds. 

Southland District Health Board this week released its long-awaited proposal to revamp Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital – it wants to turn it into a “one-stop shop” healthcare facility. 

In what appears to be an about-face, SDHB now admits some Wakatipu public health services are below par and areas like outpatient clinics, aged care and district nursing are in need of an overhaul. 

“The existing LDH is an aging facility, some aspects of which no longer meet the needs of the community and do not provide a suitable environment for staff and patients to deliver modern healthcare,” the report concedes. 

The admission comes after extensive campaigns by Mountain Scene and the Wakatipu Health Trust for a health services shakeup at LDH – previously the DHB denied Queenstowners weren’t getting fair access to healthcare.
The report, released for public consultation, says SDHB plans to turn LDH into an “integrated family health care centre” to bring health services onto one site. 

But there’s no mention of increasing bed numbers to keep pace with the resort’s projected population growth. SDHB’s chief operating officer Lexie O’Shea admits there’ll be no increase on the existing 21 beds – comprising 10 in-patient, six elderly care and five maternity – at LDH. 

“The data doesn’t support increased beds at this time. 

“Currently if you look at the occupancy in [LDH], the average in-patient beds are used around 50 per cent of the time. On that basis you would have to say in the near future, that’s probably sufficient,” O’Shea says. 

“In this paper, we’re looking out to 2026, so it’s really important we take a long-term view.” 

But former Otago DHB planning and funding boss Chris Fraser, who last year produced a “needs assessment” at LDH for the Wakatipu Health Trust, disagrees. 

“There’s probably a need for a slight increase in the number of [in-patient] beds if the DHB’s intent is to give Queenstown people the same level of local access as other rural people get in Otago and Southland,” he says.
“There could be a need for as many as 30 in 20 years’ time.” 

SDHB also wants to: Double the size of LDH to make it a 24-hour general practice service; change the entry point from emergency department to general practice so ED is for emergencies only; provide dementia beds – “on a needs-basis”, O’Shea says; and increase the number of district nurses and outpatient clinics. 

The new “model of care” will be handed over to a “governing body” – including community representatives – which would sub-lease to an “operating entity”. 

Fraser says the proposal is “a significant step forward”, but warns: “Simply making a bland statement that they’re going to increase services is [well and good] but there’s still some detail to be given out so that it can be appreciated as to whether or not it’s going to make any difference.” 

SDHB holds two public meetings next Tuesday to discuss its plans, at the Memorial Hall, 4pm and 7pm.