There’s one good thing, and only one, about the Department of Health’s crazy proposal to reduce the entire Central Districts region to just two significant hospitals. At least it’s been aired now.
That means we have time to put pointed questions to our election candidates, and try to make sure that their parties won’t have a bar of it.
The suggestion is for one of the two hospitals to be in Wellington, the other either in Palmerston North or in Hawke’s Bay.
Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the authorities decided in favour of Palmerston North. It would mean that the fifth city in New Zealand – that’s what Hastings and Napier are when taken together – had no public hospital.
Impossible, you may say. Too daft even to be considered. But make no mistake, the health authorities in Wellington ARE thinking about it. And they need to be given a clear warning that it is unacceptable.
Don’t be fooled into supposing that it would be only high tech surgery that would be cut. We would be left with no dermatology, for instance. No specialist diabetes services. No respiratory medicine – even though the Bay has long had a particular problem with asthma. No ear, nose and throat. No ophthalmology. No urology. No specialist paediatric services.
That’s just a taste of what we would lose. The full list is much longer.
And should the toss of the coin fall the other way, then Palmerston North and Wanganui would be equally bereft.
Here in Hawke’s Bay we’ve already seen, more clearly than anywhere else in the country, the dreadful consequences of this kind of policy. It’s the model of what’s been done in the Bay – a failed model – that is now being recommended for application to the whole of the southern North Island.
So we need to be telling our friends in other parts of the region exactly what it would mean for them. And we need to tell our politicians that it must not be allowed to happen.