Mayors target HNZ over healthcare concerns

Some parts of Otago are “simply growing too fast” to wait any longer for adequate health services, two mayors in the region told the government this week.

In a letter made public yesterday, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Glyn Lewers and Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan jointly expressed disappointment that both boroughs were still waiting for “adequate local public healthcare” and called on Health New Zealand to Whatu Ora started working with them to find solutions this year.

“There has been a long-standing lack of investment in the local provision of publicly funded health services, infrastructure and workforce to meet the health needs of our districts,” Cadogan said in a statement coinciding with the publication of the letter .

“While our councils regularly advocate to government for better public healthcare, we are yet to see sufficient progress in expanding services or more flexibility in collaborating with communities and the private sector to support the development of solutions. local”.

Lewers said that while he applauded the “essential services and excellent frontline staff” HNZ provided to the region with limited funding and capacity, “our communities can and should expect better.”

“It is worrying that 70% of people in New Zealand who live two hours or more from a base hospital live in inner Otago.

“And that’s just counting the residents.

“With the facility several hours’ drive away, it’s not something we can afford to wait any longer for; we’re just growing too fast.”

The mayors wrote the letter in response to Te Whatu Ora’s draft Te Waipounamu Health and Wellbeing Plan, a three-year strategy for healthcare in the South Island that will come into effect from July.

While the letter avoided commenting on the content of the plan itself, the mayors noted that Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago are the first and third fastest growing regions in New Zealand to underline the urgency of addressing their healthcare needs.

“District communities need a clear commitment to local planning to improve health services in the wards from 2024-25,” the letter said.

“CODC and QLDC reiterate that they would welcome the opportunity to work with Te Whatu Ora to support this.”

When contacted yesterday, Health Minister Shane Reti said he expected Te Whatu Ora to “work closely with all local communities in developing regional health plans to ensure they are informed by local needs”.

“I hope to visit the region in the near future, however in the meantime I am encouraged by a number of health initiatives that have already been completed or are underway, including a third general practice that opened in Wānaka in March, a new unit maternity hospital for Wānaka, and Queenstown Medical Center was supported during the 2023 Christmas surge period with sustainability funding.

While HNZ acknowledged a request for comment in response to the mayors’ letter, they did not respond by deadline.

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