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Initial Meeting on Couple’s Plans for Charity Hospital


A meeting is being held in Invercargill tomorrow night to launch an ambitious plan - a stand-alone community charity hospital service for the people of Southland.

It’s the dream of Southland couple Blair and Melissa Vining, a couple who well understand the pain and frustration caused by long waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Blair Vining has terminal bowel cancer and is currently battling the odds to spend more time with his precious family. Since his diagnosis in October 2018 the 39-year old Southlander and his wife have devoted countless hours lobbying the government to ensure other Kiwis don’t have to go through the same struggles Blair has faced. They started a petition, eventually signed by more than 140,000 New Zealanders, seeking the establishment of a national Cancer Control Agency – which the government recently agreed to as part of its Cancer Action Plan.

For this determined couple, their next step is to establish a community charity hospital in Invercargill, to ensure other Southlanders get timely access to, initially, bowel cancer diagnosis, to improve their chances of survival.

“Since Blair was diagnosed, we’ve had hundreds of people contact us who’ve been denied services by the Southland DHB. If we can put an end to the suffering of others by establishing a local charity hospital service to provide timely diagnosis and treatment, then Blair’s suffering will not have been in vain” says Melissa Vining.

Plans to launch a Southland community charity hospital service will begin in earnest tomorrow night, Wednesday September 11th at 6pm with a meeting of potential investors, interested parties and supporters at the Findex Building, 173 Spey Street, Invercargill. The meeting will be closed to media; however, those attending will be happy to speak to media before and after proceedings.

Attending the meeting will be local businesses and entities, a lawyer and an accountant as well as local doctors and nurses who have expressed interest in helping deliver medical support once the service is up and running. Also attending will be Professor Phil Bagshaw, Dame Sue Bagshaw and Carl Shaw from the highly successful 12-year old Canterbury Charity Hospital in Christchurch. Professor Bagshaw has been acting as a mentor to the Vining’s in their initial plans to get a Southland charity hospital service off the ground.

“We’re delighted to be able to help by giving them advice on how to proceed” says Professor Bagshaw.” It’s regrettable that entities such as charity hospitals need to be considered at all, but while health resources are underfunded nationwide in general, it’s clear that people in the regions, like Southland, are suffering badly.

Professor Bagshaw knows the figures well. He co-authored a recent SDHB-commissioned report into perceived issues with their endoscopy service, ‘Assessment of Diagnostic and Treatment Times for Endoscopic Cases for Southern DHB’ which was released to the SDHB in May. The report concluded that the SDHB area has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in NZ; one of the highest rates of cancer spreading beyond the bowel at diagnosis; one of the highest emergency surgery rates for bowel cancer; and one of the lowest colonoscopy rates. He says he and other interested parties are watching closely to ensure the government acts on the report’s many recommendations.

Melissa Vining says the initial plan for a Southland community charity hospital service is to firstly provide colonoscopies to Southland patients left languishing on waiting lists. The hope is to then expand the service to include diagnosis and treatment for other conditions. She admits its early days and that there’s a long way to go yet to get things up and running – including financing the project and even finding a site to position the hospital - but she says many in the local community are right behind them.

“Southland is a great place to live and we want to have great healthcare for people no matter where they live” says Melissa.” We haven’t got time for more government reviews and reports – we really need action”.

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