Letter to the Editor | Hospital services lacking

Email the editor: editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Hospital services lacking in Wanaka

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to the Maniototo community for their initiative and resourcefulness in raising some $5million to upgrade and extend the existing hospital in Ranfurly.

Ranfurly is some 45 minutes from Dunstan Hospital, yet they will have an excellent hospital facility of their own. Well done!

By stark contrast, Wanaka is one hour ten minutes fast driving from the nearest hospital in Clyde. Wanaka has the best primary healthcare one could wish for and an excellent medical centre, but beyond that is a healthcare vacuum.

Wanaka’s population has doubled in a few years and is now around 8000. But add to that some one million visitors and include the many times each year when the population soars to 35,000 for weeks on end. That there is no hospital in Wanaka, nor one planned, is a disgrace and a community risk.

The current example of a midwife crisis in Wanaka is an example of what our community is exposed to. The SDHB’s response to reluctantly agree to pay for an “office” is pathetic, when in actuality Wanaka has for years qualified for its own birthing facility to cater for its 100-plus births a year. And that latest pitiful response from the Board came only after national publicity about Wanaka’s situation. Meanwhile, the lack of a hospital (or even a birthing facility) in Wanaka is ignored.

The booming population-centres of Central Otago are further from a base hospital than anywhere else in New Zealand. Is a three-and-a half drive on busy rural then city roads to Dunedin quite acceptable?

A Wanaka friend of mine with suspected stroke-symptoms last year spent five hours in transit, being shuttled from one ambulance to another, with waits in-between. In the North Island that situation would be intolerable – even incredible - yet why is it tolerable for all of us?

It appears the solution is to have – as exists elsewhere – satellite hospitals in each of our booming communities. Equipped with video-conferencing facilities, such hospitals can easily access specialist medical advice within the SDHB.  

Queenstown has one and plans to expand it. Cromwell is 30 minutes (or less) from one and Alexandra only ten minutes. Even tiny Ranfurly to its credit already has one, plus the $5 million to extend it. Yet Wanaka and its large population of residents and visitors have nothing. Queenstown hospital is over an hour’s drive over the Crown Range from Wanaka; Dunstan Hospital in Clyde (with no A&E) is more than an hour of fast driving. In a good earthquake, neither would be accessible.  

W. J. Thompson

Email: editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

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