Discussion needed on health cuts

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Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says discussions will need to take place before any “public action” as a result of the Southern District Health Board’s planned funding cuts to Oamaru Hospital.
The existing contract between Waitaki District Health Services, which operates Oamaru Hospital, and the SDHB, which funds the council-owned company, expires at the end of the current financial year.
Negotiations will shortly start on a new contract for the 2017-18 financial year. However, the SDHB has signalled its intention to cut funding by 10%, which will put more pressure on Oamaru’s already under-funded health services.
Last week, Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzalez revealed the number of rural inpatient and assessment, treatment and rehabilitation beds would be reduced from 30 to 24 from April 1.
The hospital is at present funded for 22.6 beds.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the loss of beds and any funding cut would hit the Waitaki district hard.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that it’s come to this. Basically, we’re not getting the funding cut at this stage, but it’s the impact of having a decrease in funding from the DHB in successive years that’s the biggest concern.
“Really, our gripe is that the SDHB has been getting a funding increase, but they haven’t been passing on any of it.”Friends of Oamaru Hospital chairwoman Anne Wilkinson shared Mr Kircher’s view.
“I understand the pressure Dunedin are under but it seems unfair that we, who have lived within our income, are punished by those that don’t,” she said.
“If there is any action Friends of Oamaru Hospital can take, we will be ready to act if asked.”Over the past two years, WDHS has had no increase in funding for inflation from the SDHB, despite the board receiving that from the Ministry of Health.