Wakatipu’s health board voice

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An Arrowtown resident and long-time health official has been named as one of two new deputy commissioners by the Southern District Health Board.

Trained nurse and former Canterbury DHB chief executive Jean O’Callaghan has been living in Arrowtown since 2016.

She will be joined by David Perez, a retired medical oncologist and former chairman of a group involved in the new Dunedin Hospital design, on the commissioner team.

O’Callaghan says while her role involves overseeing the entire region, she does have a “greater understanding” of living in a rural area and the challenges of delivering services to a “dispersed population”.

She sees the DHB’s Primary and Community Care Strategy – aimed at growing frontline services like doctors’ general practices and pharmacies to keep people out of hospital – as a priority for the Queenstown Lakes District.

However, it’s too early for her to comment on whether the region has enough primary care services to deliver on this goal, she says, but adds access “seems to be very good”.

She notes the development of the hospital’s emergency department as another key project.

“It’s about developing all services outside of the hospital to help people stay healthy, while making sure the hospital is there when people need it.”

It’s no secret the DHB is in a shaky financial position, and O’Callaghan tells Mountain Scene funding is always an issue in health care.

She hopes to use her robust experience in the sector to reduce the deficit, while keeping services safe.

O’Callaghan grew up in Dunedin, but since moving to Arrowtown has been involved in local activities, such as volun-teering at St John.

She is pleased about her new appointment.

“It’s about learning and seeing where I can make a contribution to help build on progress and help transition to a new board later this year.”

The DHB is preparing to revert to an elected board, with an election to be held in October.

miranda.cook@scene.co.nz