To war in the capital

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Queenstown action group springs surprise weapon against SDHB

The Wakatipu Health Trust will take its fight to Wellington with a surprise weapon.

Trust spokesperson Maria Cole reveals a top health consultant has been hired to do a “needs assessment of hospital services at Queenstown”.

The trust is campaigning for “fair and transparent funding” for Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital, accusing Invercar­gill-based South­land District Health Board of short-changing the Waka­tipu.

Hired gun Chris Fraser, the consultant doing the assessment, is former planning and funding boss of both the Otago and Southland DHBs. He’s also consulted for the Ministry of Health.

Though Fraser can’t include confidential information from his five years at the DHBs, his assessment will “draw on existing data that’s out there in the public domain”, he says.

Cole says Fraser will do “a complete stocktake of health and disability services, both private and public, currently provided to the resident population [and] will separately quantify services provided to visitors”.

Fraser says he’ll compare Queenstown “against other centres, having regard to population size, growth factors and the demographic split”.

The assessment will reveal a “gap analysis” – in plain lang­uage, he means where the holes are in Wakatipu healthcare.

Cole fears that gap will be “pretty wide” between healthcare here and elsewhere.

“There’s considerable anec­dotal evidence that that’s the case and now we’re gathering the hard data.”

Armed with Fraser’s report, due in early October, Cole will then wing her way to Welling­ton and knock on Health Minister Tony Ryall’s door.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English – Queenstown’s MP – will also get a copy.

Earlier discussions with SDHB were fruitless, Cole says, so unless there’s a change of stance the trust has “no option but to go to Wellington”.

Fraser’s work is costing Cole’s trust between $10,000-$20,000 – “It’s only a pity the community has to fund such a cornerstone piece of essential planning, rather than SDHB,” she says.

“The trust is doing what SDHB should have done long ago.”

Why’s the trust analysing private healthcare as well as public?

Cole: “Our assertion is that many people travel out of Queenstown for services because they have to – and we need to understand how many of those access private versus DHB services.”

The trust also needs “to understand what impact [tourist healthcare has] on our public health services to see whether locals are being deprived”, she adds.

When completed, Fraser’s report will be aired at one or more public meetings, Cole promises.

She wants community feedback before lobbying in the corridors of power.

Fiona still McSilent

Despite her estimated $20,000 salary, Fiona McArthur – the Wakatipu’s sole elected Southland District Health Board rep – is still fudging answers to hard questions on Queenstown’s healthcare controversy.

Is Queenstown being short-changed? “The issues that surround health at the moment are very difficult and complex…”

Are we being short-changed? “I believe there’s some change that needs to happen to move forward…” Wakatipu Health Trust’s survey will help, she says, but McArthur won’t go any further.

Personal view? “It’s not right in the timing of this issue for me to bring forward my personal issue.”

Had many complaints? “I cannot give you any details because when people [contact me] they need to be able to trust me with those.”

Spoken to SDHB colleagues? “I’ve had numerous emails, discussions and phone calls about a huge number of issues [SDHB] faces … and this one would be included.”