Local Body Election Campaign
October 7 2019 by Mayor Jim Boult
A frequent topic of discussion during the current Local Body Election campaign has been the provision of health services in our district. Healthcare in the Queenstown Lakes is the responsibility of the Southern District Health Board. This entity covers the whole of Otago and Southland and operates the principal hospitals at Dunedin and Invercargill as well as the smaller hospitals, such as ours at Frankton.
I understand completely that the DHB has massive challenges ahead of it in building a replacement hospital at Dunedin. I am fully supportive and know this is vital for our region as a whole.
The DHB has recently upgraded parts of Lakes District Hospital and that is to be applauded. However, the frustration I hear from many in the community, is the need to travel to either Dunedin or Invercargill for minor surgical procedures. This usually involves taking a friend or family member able to drive after the patient has had anaesthetic. Therefore, what should be a reasonably simple process becomes two people traveling out of the district for the day, most likely requiring time off work and cover for responsibilities.
Similar issues arise for Maternity Services. While primary birthing facilities are available in the district, only very straightforward births result in children actually being born here. Any sign of complications, especially for first time mothers, again requires a trip to Invercargill. At a time where Mums and Dads have their hands full and when families should be together it’s sad to see the additional pressure of travel and further time off work and away from older children.
I’m heartened by plans to establish a private hospital to be established on the Queenstown Country Club site, to be run by Southern Cross. The DHB have confirmed, (subject to details around pricing and the like), they will fund treatment for day procedures and some overnight procedures at the Southern Cross Hospital. This will be a very welcome addition to current services available here and mean that everyone can access them, not just those with medical insurance. I do however believe that longer term, the DHB will need to face the requirement of a greatly improved public health service in our district.
Mental health services in our district are also seriously lacking. The pressure on our fantastic emergency services and the small number of mental health professionals is enormous – especially in emergency and acute situations. We need a far greater level of support for both users of the service and the professionals in this space.
In summary, while there are good signs - with the Southern Cross hospital on its way and the improvements at Lakes District Hospital, there’s a massive amount yet to be done to ensure the people of the Queenstown Lakes get the healthcare they deserve.
Mayor Jim Boult