Otago and Southland District Health Boards have been developing a closer relationship for some time.
They have a single chief executive and chair and have been consulting on a full merger.
Public meetings on the proposal haven’t been well attended which indicates people don’t have strong feelings on the issue.
The most heat about the the proposal was from Central Otago where people who are caught between board boundaries were in favour of the merge. They gave the example of someone in Queenstown who needs chemotherapy who has to go to Invercargill under the current structure but would be able to make the shorter journey to Dunstan Hospital if there was a single board.
However, Southland Hospital doctors wrote an open letter opposing the merger, just a day before submissions closed.
Dr Charles Lueker, who chairs the senior medical staff committee in Southland, said the letter was signed on behalf of “well over 90%” of senior doctors at Southland Hospital.
The doctors expressed concerns about services being centralised to Dunedin and the loss of the board’s advocacy for the people of Southland.
Reducing costs, sharing resources and providing more convenient service for many rural patients has a lot to recommend it.
It would be a pity if the merger which would do this was to fail at this late stage.