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Napier’s Vanishing Public Health Services

Napier’s Vanishing Public Health Services

5 July 2005

“It is now certain that Napier City’s public health services are deteriorating”, said Don Stuart, Chair of the Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc).

On Saturday 2 July 2005, Dr Robin Gwynn, Napier City Councillor and independent public health advocate, presented a research paper to the Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc). Dr Gwynn’s paper shows incontrovertibly that the public health clinics delivered from Napier’s Wellesley Road Health Centre have steeply declined.

Using District Health Board figures, Dr Gwynn showed how Napier's clinics have been decimated. For instance in 1998 the Board committed to 90 cardiology, 180 day surgery, 135 ophthalmology, and 180 orthopaedic/fracture clinics a year in Napier after the Hill Hospital was closed. By 2004 only half the orthopaedic/fracture clinics and an eighth of the cardiology clinics were being held. Day surgery and ophthalmology had been abandoned.

Clinics continued to decrease in 2004-2005. Last year 102 fewer clinics were held in Napier, while 369 more were held in Hastings.

It appears that a number of the clinics did not deliver any actual treatment. Instead, they were merely used to refer Napier patients to the already over-burdened Hastings Hospital.

Among those attending Dr Gwynn’s presentation were representatives from the National Party, New Zealand First and the Greens. The National Party representative commented that, not only is this a local disgrace, it negatively affects public health services in the entire region.

Despite being invited, Russell Fairbrother, Napier’s elected Labour Party MP, failed to attend the presentation, send a representative, or offer an apology for his absence.

“It is obvious that Napier’s Health Centre is deliberately and conveniently being underutilised. The Health Centre’s lease comes up for renewal in a few years and the DHB can use the low clinic numbers as an excuse to close it. When that happens, Napier will have no substantive free public health services at all” said Mr Stuart.

“Napier’s experience should be a warning to all communities whose public hospitals were replaced with Health Centres. Annette King continually promotes Primary Health Organisations and the miracles they will perform, but PHOs are privately owned; access to their services is definitely ‘user pays’.

“It is time for politicians to stop tinkering with our public health system. It is funded by our taxes. The Right to real, accessible free public health services should not be at the whim of political ideology; it is every New Zealander’s Birthright” he said.

Don Stuart, Chair, Napier Public Health Action Group (Inc).

ENDS

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