Marching for Waitaki’s health services

Nearly 30 years ago around 13,000 people marched through Oamaru to protest against proposed cuts to health services.

This morning there’s another march for the same reason and it’s got political.

Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark has been accused of trying to ”hijack” tomorrow’s health march in Oamaru, and has been denied speaking rights after refusing to accept a condition not to criticise the Government.
National Party Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean will speak at the march because she had agreed to that condition, Waitaki Mayor and march organiser Gary Kircher said.

The event was ”not political”.

The focus was the Southern District Health Board and its funding priorities. . .

The Mayor says more in a Facebook post.

. . . As has been clear from the start, this march has been about the cuts to our hospital funding proposed by the Southern DHB. Instead, David wants to make it political by bringing in the much wider issue of government funding and he wants to use our march to make his political statement.
Now, we all would love for central government to put more money into health, but the SDHB has had increases and they’re simply not passing on our fair share to us in Waitaki. They haven’t done so for years. Instead, we had no increase last year and they want to cut 5% from our funding this year! They would rather make our people go to Dunedin for services which we can deliver far more efficiently in Oamaru! For example, we have excellent scanning equipment and services in Oamaru Hospital but we only get around $15,000 per year to run them. People complain that they have to go to Dunedin for scans when they could be done right here! However, David doesn’t want to focus on this. Perhaps it’s because many of the Dunedin Hospital staff who benefit from this wasteful spending live in his electorate?
I have made the offer to David that he can march alongside me and our Councillors at the front of the march, I’ve told him that I will acknowledge him and his support for the aim of our march in my speech, and I had intend to have him up on the stage with the speakers and our Councillors. And I had offered to let him speak if he focussed on the reason for the march. But if he really prefers to let the DHB off the hook by playing politics, I make no apology for declining his last-minute request to speak.  . .

There is a legitimate argument about whether the population based funding model is calculated correctly for large areas with smaller and older populations but that is an argument for another day.

Today is not about whether the south’s share of the health cake is big enough but because Waitaki is not getting it’s fair share of the south’s slice.

Waitaki District Health Services chair George Berry puts the board’s case here.


2 Responses to Marching for Waitaki’s health services

  1. TraceyS says:

    I hope the march went well. Both of my Grandmas died in Oamaru and if it were not for family needs in Dunedin I’d probably have been there. I’d imagine that for most people the issue is not political but about family. My most recent experience with Oamaru hospital was an x-ray of our daughter’s (previously) broken arm while camping up the lakes and cutting off her sodden (from swimming and water sport) cast. My sister-in-law also works there.


  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    Ele is correct in identifying two issues around funding. The first is the way the Southern DHB manages the funding it does receive and the second is whether the current funding model is appropriate. I would have thought both are relevant in regard to improving health provision in Oamaru.

    Invercargill has had similar issues. Before the merger with Otago the Southland DHB managed to operate within our budget with more success than Otago and since the merger we have had to share a debt burden not fully of our making and have also suffered cuts. Dunedin Hospital is in much need of refurbishment and redevelopment while Invercargill had a new hospital built not so long ago and we are now seeing cuts to essential services in our patch to accommodate the wider needs of the larger DHB.

    While I would never say that the Southern DHB is perfectly managed (I do think that great strides have been made since the multi-million dollar fraud occurred some years ago) The population based funding is the actual issue. Otago and Southland have a huge geographical area to manage compared to many other DHBs and it is much harder to save costs through centralised services.

    Many of our towns and communities are so far from major centres that a higher level of services are required in those outlying areas to deal with life threatening emergencies. Already we have had essential nursing services cut in Gore and lowered accessibility to colonoscopies in Invercargill. Hospital food has been outsourced and we are losing experienced kitchen staff in Invercargill. We are already seeing widespread cuts that are impacting on health delivery.

    The 13.5% shortfall in funding for Oamaru is a shocking situation because it means that the pressure on reduced staffing to deliver basic services will be unreasonable, important areas such as preventative health will be cut (causing more demand on services later) and negative health impacts will result.

    Despite increases in Government funding to the health sector, the increases have not kept up with demand. Inflation is just one aspect to be considered: we have a growing population, we have a growing demand for aged care, health impacts of poverty and diabetes etc is growing and we are falling behind in best practice treatments for common conditions such as cancer (we have higher mortality rates than other countries). Thousands are dying from cancer in New Zealand who would have survived in Australia and 25% of cancer deaths in Maori could be avoided.

    These are shocking statistics when amongst 11 representative OECD countries we actually spend the least on heath care than any other per capita:

    Interestingly the two areas identified in the above link where we rank lowest is in equity (that population based funding fails to address) and lifestyles (which has been effected by cuts to preventative health).

    While I agree that the Southern DHB needs to explain its own funding model it is hugely constrained by its own Government funded budget. Unless that is addressed further cuts will be inevitable across the board.


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