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Creech claim bemuses Minister

Health Minister Annette King says National Party health spokesperson Wyatt Creech is being hypocritical in claiming the Government's health reform proposals will work against local people in rural New Zealand having more say in their health services.

"Perhaps I should be charitable, and just say Mr Creech demonstrates little understanding of South Island geography."

Mrs King says Mr Creech has been bombarding regional media with his claim that small places will miss out on representation on the new District Health Boards, and that the boards will be dominated by the main urban centres.

"One example of his crocodile tears was the media release he sent to Southland. Oh dear, he said, the chances of getting people from Arrowtown on the board will be pretty slim. And what about Gore and Queenstown, he asks.

"Well, the facts are these. The current Hospital and Health Services board for Southern Health has seven members. Three come from Invercargill, two from Christchurch, one from Dunedin, and one from Wellington. None of those are small rural centres in Southland or central Otago.

"And to make it even more interesting, six of those seven people were appointed by Mr Creech when he was Minister of Health or by his predecessors. Mr Creech obviously had a great feel for rural needs when he was the Minister."

Mrs King said she could guarantee rural communities would have a stronger voice when DHBs came into existence in October next year. "They will either be elected as one of seven board members under the Single Transferable Vote system, which allows for more equitable representation, or I will compensate for any lack of representation when I make up to four appointments additional to the elected members.

"Mr Creech's claims are ludicrous and purely political. He should be embarrassed by his own hypocrisy."

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