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Health Emerges As Council Election Issue


Health Emerges As Council Election Issue

Health emerged as a Council election issue at the first Napier election meeting yesterday, hosted by the Taradale Senior Citizens, as several candidates commented on Napier’s inadequate health services.

Commenting today, Mayoral and Council candidate Dr Robin Gwynn said there are three key issues that should concern Council: (1) How to use the only site in the city reserved for health purposes? (2) The assurances given the city when it lost our hospital - how to ensure they are met? (3) Improving current services. Only the last of the three is under consideration at present.

"It isn’t Council’s role to deliver health services", he said, "but it does have a responsibility to its citizens to press for them to be adequate. It needs to be much more proactive than it has been in the past term.

"Steps Council must take are to

Press the District Health Board to honour its undertakings made when the Hospital was abandoned

Call for an enhanced birthing service so that our city’s children can continue to be born in public facilities in their own community

Ensure that a properly staffed 24/7 Accident, Emergency and stabilisation unit is available to the 55,000 people of this city

Establish a round-table forum to co-ordinate the various concerned community groups in Napier and facilitate and encourage the work of Napier citizens fighting for improved health services for the city

work to ensure Napier retains adequate health provision for the future

Widen the membership and terms of reference of the present Council Health Advocacy Committee and ensure that the Councillors appointed to it are drawn from those who have listened attentively to public submissions on the issue

Develop a plan for the future use of the Hill site for the health purposes for which it was originally set aside in Trust by law and vested in the Borough of Napier."

It is well over two years since the Napier City Council first promised to form a health committee (May 2002) to liaise with the District Health Board on the huge shortfall of promised public health services in Napier following the closure of Napier’s hospital.

A meeting last month has finally opened the door to serious discussion between the city of Napier and the District Health Board about the future of health services in the city, but that time lag is a clear signal to the people of this city about the low priority the Napier City Council has given to their health concerns.

When Napier lost its hospital, the city was assured that it would retain two-thirds of the services that had been delivered from the former Napier Public Hospital. A sub-acute unit, backing up the regional acute hospital in Hastings, was to provide services from the hill site. Such assurances were given at national and regional level, from Prime Minister down.

"We do not have anything like that degree of service at present, nor will we get it unless the DHB is challenged to fulfil its undertakings", Dr Gwynn said. "Until this past month, Council had done nothing to draw the District Health Board’s attention to its fundamental failure to meet its obligations, a failure which not only affects Napier residents but weakens health delivery throughout Hawke’s Bay.

Council cannot claim it did not know about the need. It knew about it in 2002 when it first agreed to establish a Health Committee. It was made quite clear again last year by the extraordinary, record public response to the consultation on the caveat issue. And this year, Napier citizens put health as their number one concern by a huge margin in a survey that preceded the ten-year plan. Yet Council said nothing on the subject in that plan.

The incoming Council needs to act with real urgency and sense of purpose on this issue. It must show much more concern for a long-term vision of health for Napier’s people, and represent the needs of local people more effectively.

Its own health advocacy committee cannot simply accepts the DHB’s current agenda, as it is doing at present. It needs to liaise with and co-ordinate the other community groups which are concerned about the existing health situation. It should develop a strategic future overview about public health services in Napier – a vision - should Wellesley Road be abandoned by a future DHB because of its rental cost.

Both the Government and the Board need to be told that the present situation is unacceptable. Rethinking and re-engineering - more than mild tinkering - is required to put the system to rights."

Only the Council has the facilities to prepare the case and deliver it with sufficient force to make a difference. To date it has not done this.


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