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Council to enter talks with Health NZ over hospital ownership

Waitaki App

Staff Reporter

02 April 2024, 12:11 AM

Council to enter talks with Health NZ over hospital ownershipWaitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley says the council's priority is to secure the long-term future of Ōamaru Hospital. Photo: supplied

The priority of council negotiations with Health NZ over the Ōamaru Hospital ownership is to maintain its services, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.


A decision was made last week, in a public-excluded session of the Waitaki District Council meeting, to begin negotiations with Health NZ Te Whatu Ora over a potential transfer of staff and services back to the national health organisation.



The decision was based on confidential advice and related information from Waitaki District Health Services Limited (WDHS). 


“We want to reassure the community that these negotiations start from the critical position of maintaining a hospital and health services in Ōamaru, for the Waitaki district,” Gary said.


The public was excluded from last Tuesday’s (March 26) council meeting, due to commercial sensitivities regarding some details.


The council also commissioned a review to consider options for the future sustainability of health services in Waitaki and established a working group to work with the review and support negotiations.


This is not a final decision on the future of the hospital, but a decision to enter negotiations with Health NZ.


If negotiations are successful, a proposal will be presented to council in the future for it to decide if it will transfer the services.


“Waitaki District Council, through WDHS, has had operational control of Ōamaru Hospital since July 1, 1999. Without council and WDHS, Ōamaru Hospital would have closed in the 1990s,” Gary said. 


“Due to the stewardship of our council, we have been able to ensure Waitaki has had a hospital for 25 years.


“Our community should not be paying twice for its hospital, through general taxation and rates. Ensuring the hospital service remains here is our priority and initial discussions with Health NZ have been encouraging in that respect.”


Council chief executive Alex Parmley said as sole shareholder in WDHS, the priority of the council is to secure the long-term future of the hospital and its services, and to ensure hospital staff are looked after throughout any potential transition.


“With council’s decision, formal negotiations with Health NZ can now begin. There is a lot to discuss and, if we can reach a proposal that works for our community, we will let our residents know what that looks like, before bringing it back to council for a decision on whether to go ahead or not.”


Staff at the Ōamaru Hospital have been informed about the council’s decision, and further information will be provided in due course.


Health NZ Te Whatu Ora Te Waipounamu (South Island) Local Commissioning group manager Aroha Metcalf said the organisation wants to make sure people living in rural communities have the services they need to live long and healthy lives, supported by a health system that meets their needs. 

 

“Our focus is on ensuring ongoing sustainable health services for the local community and we wish to develop a joint transition programme with the Council on how the day-to-day operations of the hospital could be shifted to Health NZ. 


“We will work closely with hospital leadership and the hospital staff as the plan is worked through.” 

 

Health NZ is supportive of the review that the council is going to commission, and in light of that, will also work with local leaders on the timing of the stakeholder and community engagement on Te Waka Hauora o Waitaki Health Futures project, Aroha said.


“The aim of this project is to develop a health care model covering the whole mix of health care services in Waitaki, not just those managed by the council, so it is timely these discussions are being held to ensure service continuity.

 

“This is in line with our place-based planning approach, listening to the voices of the community and working with service providers to share their local knowledge about what can be improved or developed.  

 

“The local community is fortunate to have a wonderful team of dedicated healthcare professionals in Waitaki and Health NZ highly values the hard work that they do every day,” she said.




Look out for a further in-depth Q&A with Mayor Gary Kircher surrounding this issue on the Waitaki App in the coming days.