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Monday, April 20

Waitaki may be better served from Sth. Can: report

Financial strife at theSouthern District Health Board (SDHB) may put pressure on health care in Waitaki if cost-cutting proposals being considered by the board come to pass.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said a document she obtained revealed the board was in “serious freefall”, with a ballooning deficit. The document showed a $27 million deficit in 2014-15 and a $42 million deficit projected for 2015-16, Dr King said, and outlined the need for cutting costs.

The SDHB is the principal funder of Waitaki District Health Services, the Waitaki District Council-owned company that operates Oamaru Hospital.

Waitaki District Health Services chairman George Berry said he was unable to comment directly on the deficit.

“It’s premature to comment at this stage because we are in negotiations over the continuation of our funding for the next financial year. We will be putting out a media release when those negotiations have been completed.”

In Waitaki District Health Services’ half-yearly report, it was revealed consideration was being given to seeking funding from the South Canterbury District Health Board because of the SDHB’s financial woes.

“A continuing issue is whether the Waitaki district would be better served through being part of the South Canterbury DHB, which does not seem to have the SDHB problems with financial resources and their management, and in terms of travel distances, is our closest base hospital,” the report said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he had real concerns services in Waitaki could be cut.

“We have lived well within our means at the local hospital but the question is what are these funding cuts going to mean. We could lose more than gain services. It’s a concern when you have a growing and ageing population, you can’t entertain the idea of going backwards.

“I believed the likes of Dunedin Hospital need to do their bit and pick up their act, because that’s where the money is being sucked up … Dunedin is a tertiary hospital, but our hospital is a service hospital. We don’t want to be downgraded even further.”

He said he would hate to see health workers laid off in Oamaru and said he wanted to “protect them as much as possible”.

“We’ve got to look at what the options are. From the council’s point of view, we own the company that operates the hospital. We have to make sure as a district we end up with the service we need.”

–¬†Additional reporting ODT¬†