Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Mayors call for urgent improvements to public health care

Queenstown Lakes Mayor, Glyn Lewers and Central Otago Mayor, Tim Cadogan, have jointly written to New Zealand’s primary health agency to advocate for improved health services for inland Otago.

The mayors’ letter is in response to Te Whatu Ora’s draft Te Waipounamu Health and Wellbeing Plan, a three-year strategy for healthcare in the South Island that is planned to come into effect from July.

Mayor Cadogan says Te Whatu Ora’s Health and Wellbeing Plan needs to urgently address inland Otago’s inadequate access to public health care.

“There has been a long-standing lack of investment in local provision of publicly funded health services, infrastructure, and workforce to meet our districts’ health needs,” he said.

“Despite our councils regularly advocating to government for better public health care, we’re yet to see sufficient progress on expanding services, or more flexibility on engaging with communities and the private sector to support the development of local solutions.”

Mayor Lewers (pictured) said it was disappointing that Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago were still waiting for access to adequate public local healthcare.

“Concerningly, 70% of the people in Aotearoa New Zealand who live two hours or more from a base hospital live in inland Otago. And that’s only counting residents.”

“I applaud the essential services and outstanding frontline staff Te Whatu Ora currently delivers for inland Otago communities, and that the agency is working with limited funds and capacity, but our communities can and should expect better.

“With facilities several hours drive away it’s not something we can afford to wait any longer for — we’re simply growing too fast.”

Currently, Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago’s combined resident-only population is 79,000, which is similar in size to Palmerston North. Visitors to the region increases the population, and need, substantially, the Mayors said.

Queenstown Lakes has been the fastest growing area in New Zealand for many years and has had a population increase of 8% in the last year alone. Central Otago is the third fastest growing district nationally.

Mayors Cadogan and Lewers jointly invited the Minister of Health to again lend support and for Te Whatu Ora to look for innovative and collaboratively delivered solutions that address the needs of the fastest growing area of the country.

The paid say they will continue to meet regularly with community leaders and local MPs to jointly progress inland Otago’s growing health needs.

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