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A public meeting is being held tonight to discuss and plan a community response to the proposed restructure at Oamaru Hospital.

Former Oamaru Hospital doctor Janice Clayton has been promoting the meeting, to be held at 7pm tonight at the Scottish Hall, as an opportunity to “express your concerns and also to plan a community response” to the organisational restructure proposed by Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS).

A document entitled “proposal for change”, distributed to hospital staff on Monday and leaked to the Otago Daily Times, details the roles that may be axed and the reasons behind the move, including the need for the company to become financially sustainable.

WDHS recorded an operational deficit of $688,655 in the year to June 30, compared with $558,095 in the previous year.

Under the 18-page proposal, the number of full-time equivalent nursing roles would be reduced, meaning additional responsibilities for senior nurses on duty and an increase in healthcare assistants.

Administration, occupational therapy, orderly and cleaning roles are also impacted.

The hospital’s maternity ward is not affected.

Staffing levels would be reduced in some areas, such as nurses on duty in the hospital’s wards, but increased in others, including the emergency department.

More than $1.5 million in wage costs could be saved annually.

WDHS chief executive Ruth Kibble said the restructure was needed to ensure the hospital had the best possible mix of staff.

“The challenge that Oamaru Hospital faces, as with other rural hospitals, is the need to ensure that the workforce has the right skill mix and competencies to address the varied needs of those whom access the services, whether that individual is admitted, seen in the community, or stabilised awaiting transfer,” Mrs Kibble said.

“As such, there is a need to ensure within WDHS that our staff have a broad skill mix to meet the diverse demands, but also to enable issues relating to working conditions as described above to be addressed.”

Mrs Kibble said reactions had been mixed and she appreciated some staff might resign before the end of the consultation period on March 11.

“This is an incredibly challenging time for us all,” she said.

“We appreciate this consultation document affects some incredibly dedicated and loyal staff of WDHS.

“It is our intention to ensure individuals are supported throughout the entire process.”

She was confident services would remain stable throughout the process.

“Planning has been undertaken to ensure that there is no disruption to the community during this consultation period,” she said.

“No services will be affected and there will be no reduction of services provided to the community.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he met with Mrs Kibble on Wednesday to discuss a need for better communication and information sharing, for the benefit of staff and the Oamaru community.

“Treating staff fairly is an important factor in a stressful situation such as a proposed restructure,” Mr Kircher said.