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Oops! Local Mp Slips On Banana Skin

Oops! Local Mp Slips On Banana Skin

How long a few days can be in politics!

Just a fortnight ago, Napier MP Russell Fairbrother was saying he had 'no problem' putting the 'good idea' of using Arohaina, on the Hospital Hill site, as part of a 'cottage hospital', to Minister of Health Annette King.

His only requirement was that this be on the agenda of our Group. 'I will do so with enthusiasm', he said, 'if the group specify this type of facility and not a full-blown hospital being re-opened'.

We were delighted to reply immediately that we accepted this proposal. A "cottage" or "community" hospital, not conflicting with but supporting the regional hospital, has been our agenda for many months, as is clear from what we have said and written and from our media releases across that time. We believe Arohaina and the Tower Block should provide plenty of space as the permanent basis for Napier's health services - rent free.

Now, just a fortnight later, the MP has changed his ground. The issues of the level of services in Napier and from where they should be delivered are, he says, "questions for the district health board to determine".

So what has happened to his undertaking to put the 'good idea' to the Minister? Where has his 'enthusiasm' suddenly vanished?

Surely it could not be that Mr Fairbrother was just trying to put us on the spot, and was surprised by the positive response he received?

The issue of whether Napier can keep some health services into the future is too important for playing politics. We want to work with our MP on this.

But this is the second time he has changed his ground: the views he expressed before the election have long since been trashed.

This time, we ask him to deliver. It's high time we had a positive lead from our local representative in Wellington. To start with, Napier needs a proper, full consultation on its health services - the consultation it was denied by National in the 1990s.

The buck cannot be passed to the District Health Board. Its members know only too well the intense pressure they are constantly put under from Wellington. Yes, the Board does need to be party to negotiations on the precise services to be delivered. But what we are talking about here is high policy driven from Wellington. The Government cannot evade the responsibility. Nor can the local MP.

Our own understanding is that cabinet decisions have already been made in Wellington. We call on Mr Fairbrother to come clean on what those decisions are, when they were made, and how they can have been made when consultation with the WAI 692 claimants is barely under way, and Napier as a whole has had no valid health consultation at all.

And we call on him to do what he promised, and 'enthusiastically' advocate with Annette King for using Arohaina on the Hospital Hill site as part of a 'cottage hospital'.

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