Resort facilities

‘Absolute disgrace’: Lack of hospital facilities in Queenstown criticized

A retired surgeon is appalled by the lack of emergency hospital facilities in Queenstown and the reliance on transporting patients to Invercargill and even further afield.

“We’re in the cold,” says John Harman, a former trauma surgeon, then breast cancer surgeon, who retired to Queenstown two and a half years ago.

“It’s an absolute disgrace.”

He thinks there is an urgent need to establish a trauma center to care for people injured during activities such as skiing, surfing and mountain biking.

It is also targeting emergency care for people with heart attacks, strokes, etc., and a full-scale birthing centre, rather than so many mums-to-be having to travel to Invercargill.

“We have invited tourists to come here to the adventure playground of the world.

“Now any ski resort this size in the world has a trauma center with orthopedic surgeons, because when people get injured on the ski slopes or during activities, they need an investigation and urgent and specialized care.

“We don’t have any of that.”

Frankton Hospital compared to a ‘band-aid on a pig’

“Putting people in an ambulance for two and a half to three hours is unconscionable, you shouldn’t be allowed to do this, there’s nowhere else in New Zealand that does this on this scale.”

Harman calls Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital, which has accident, emergency and maternity services, “a band-aid on a pig”.

“It’s not fit for purpose – it’s basically not much more than a dressed GP service.”

The millions of dollars the ACC spends transporting or transporting patients out of town could be spent on a trauma center, he says.

It would also house a fraction of the billions it costs to rebuild Dunedin Hospital – “we’ll be bigger than Dunedin in 20 years”.

He is relaxed about whether a new facility is being built in Queenstown or more centrally located in Cromwell.

Harman also believes that a good public/private partnership is important “to produce good results” and likes the arrangement of the new Southern Cross Surgical Hospital in Queenstown.

He suggests that his operating theaters could also be used for trauma patients.

MP: “Small towns have basic hospitals”

Queenstown-based opposition MP Joseph Mooney said the thought must “definitely” meet the future needs of hospitals.

“The population of Central Otago/Queenstown Lakes combined is more than places that already have base hospitals like Greymouth, Blenheim and Gisborne, and the [local] the population is increasing quite significantly. »

Sending people to Invercargill is also putting pressure on the city’s already overburdened hospital, he adds.

“One of the weirdest things is the rural zoning of Queenstown in the healthcare system.”

Andrew Blair, executive chairman of Southern Cross Central Lakes Hospital, says he worked closely with the Southern District Health Board during the planning phase.

“We provide a fairly high number of publicly funded elective surgeries, so this is what I would see as the first step towards more public-private cooperation as the population warrants.

“We have gone from no operating rooms a year ago to three, which offer elective surgery publicly funded by DHB, ACC and those with insurance or the means to pay for themselves .

“I think we’ve come a long way, and over time there will be a need for increased services.

“It’s easy to say ‘we want these facilities and we need them’, but who is going to fund them?

“And it’s not just the building, for our hospital, we have over 45 employees.”

Unfortunately, says Blair, New Zealand’s public health infrastructure has been neglected by successive governments, with a “multibillion-dollar work ball” needed just to maintain existing public hospital facilities.

By all means start planning for a new hospital, he says, ‘but we have to be realistic that it’s expensive and the workforce just isn’t available in New Zealand’ .

He, too, thinks the answer lies in public-private partnerships.