Queenstown is the fastest growing part of New Zealand,
September 30 2019 by Benje Patterson - Economist, strategist, storytell
Queenstown is the fastest growing part of New Zealand, but absurdly we don’t have a fit-for-purpose hospital to service the area. There are 40,000 residents across Queenstown Lakes and another 21,000 people that live in neighbouring Central Otago. On peak days in summer, when visitors are in the mix, there are also another 80,000 visitors in Queenstown Lakes.
How dangerous is it that we don’t have a fit-for-purpose hospital here? The current Lakes District Hospital in Frankton has no surgical facilities. In emergencies, the only realistic option is a chopper to Invercargill or Dunedin. How can it be that even places with a smaller population like Greymouth get a proper hospital? They have similar geographical isolation to Queenstown and their hospital services only 30,000 people. There is no excuse for a lack of meaningful action to provide a new hospital in this rapidly growing part of the world.
There are rumours of a private hospital in Queenstown with the DHB renting theatre space – this simply won’t do. It won’t help with non-elective emergency surgery after an accident or a more complicated birth entailing an unexpected caesarean. It is all secret squirrels. I was at a public meeting recently on the future of Frankton and they can’t even confirm precise locations of medical services in the plan because the DHB refuses to engage with the council. I am sick of us being treated like fools by the DHB. The madness has to stop and the community needs to be heard. These frustrations have compelled me to stand in the Southern District Health Board elections. I want to ensure that Queenstown has a voice. My day job as an economist means I am an expert in guiding decisions supported by hard data and facts.
Health service provision can’t be something dictated by managerial convenience, instead it must be based on real evidence about real people and their wellbeing. You can’t hide from facts such as there being 50% more babies in total born to mothers from Queenstown and rural Southland than mothers from Invercargill. From a Queenstown perspective, my first step if elected will be to demand that the DHB holds an immediate public briefing to explain where they are at with plans for a new Queenstown hospital.
We must transparently understand the process and what steps and timelines are ahead of us. Targets must then be set in consultation with the local community so that we can hold the DHB to account. This must include real actions, like putting forward a business case to central government asking for an allocation in the budget for investment in a fit-for-purpose Queenstown hospital. This government has made a name of itself with wellbeing – so what better investment in wellbeing than providing healthcare to a fast-growing area that has traditionally been neglected.
As a first-time candidate for the Southern DHB, I do not carry the baggage which members of the sacked 2013 board seeking re-election may have. I come to this election with a fresh face and optimism that together we can improve the health and wellbeing of people in our beautiful slice of paradise. Let’s make health happen.
Benje Patterson - Economist, strategist, storyteller