Tragic death shows DHB blind spot


Anger has flared at the latest broken promise by the cash-strapped Southern District Health Board.

In a coroner’s finding made public this week into the death of American tourist Corey Docherty, a Queenstown doctor questioned the lack of a CT scanner at Lakes District Hospital.

Morne Pienaar, who treated brain-injured Docherty before he died, said a scanner would have made a “substantial and significant difference” to the 23-year-old’s treatment.

In June 2012, the health board controversially decided to install a scanner at Clyde’s Dunstan Hospital.

But boss Carole Heatly promised it was working on getting one for the Wakatipu “in two years’ time”.

Wakatipu health advocate Maria Cole reckons nothing’s been done.

Now her patience has run out.

“People here are justifiably angry and disappointed. We’ve been let down again.”

She says Queenstown’s “out of sight, out of mind” for the troubled DHB and it’s time for the resort to become “a master of its own destiny”. 

In 2012, the board wanted a public-private partnership to pay for a scanner for Queenstown.

Three-and-a-half years on, Heatly says it was talking to a private provider but discussions broke down.

“After extensive analysis of patient numbers and flows, it decided the volumes weren’t sufficient at that time for a surgical facility.”

Cole, who led the former Wakatipu Health Trust for 10 years, says she’s not surprised.

She tried to organise a meeting between a proven international private provider about five years ago but then-CEO Brian Rousseau “stood them up”.

“That’s just one example of how the DHB has shot itself in the foot.”

Heatly is unrepentant when asked what progress, if any, has been made on the promised scanner.

“A team, led by Dunstan and Queenstown clinicians, made the decision to place the scanner in Dunstan, this was done on the basis that the Dunstan location could serve the whole of Central Otago, including Queenstown, Alexandra, Cromwell and Clyde. This rationale remains.”

That’s not good enough, Cole says, adding: “There is no vision.”

She reiterates her call for the hospital to be managed by the community.

“The only way, we believe, is for Queenstown to be master of its own destiny and that’s really where self-governance comes into play.”

Cole says technically there’s no active body pushing the healthcare agenda for the resort but believes it’s time to reinstate one.

A ministry-commissioned draft report into Queenstown’s governance has been completed and is being circulated to “stakeholders”.

An Official Information Act request for the draft by Allied Press has been denied.

In September 2014, Mountain Scene revealed the health board wanted to off-load Queenstown’s hospital to a community trust, because its priority was rebuilding Dunedin Hospital.

Hiving off Lakes is a complete about-turn by the Ministry of Health.

In 2011, the National Health Board, which runs district health boards, put together a “panel of
experts” who scheduled a host of improvements at Lakes - but few occurred.

Docherty died in Dunedin Hospital on February 10 last year, after falling from a fire escape at Shotover Street’s Base backpackers on February 6.

The youngster was hypothermic when admitted to Lakes hospital. Crerar says that created a “dilemma” for Pienaar and his team, who were required to re-warm him.

“Such re-warming may have been conducted differently if they had known the extent of the brain