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Eketahuna aligned to wrong health board

The Eketahuna Health Centre committee chairwoman Adrienne Dempsey. PHOTO/FILE

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Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff and chief medical officer Dr Shawn Sturland wrote to Eketahuna health providers last week to clarify the DHB position on not taking Eketahuna patients for orthopaedic and gastroenterology procedures.

“Wairarapa DHB will always meet the acute needs of any patient presenting to Wairarapa Hospital,” they said.

“What cannot be provided for Eketahuna patients at this time is orthopaedic and gastroenterology services. Neither service is functioning adequately due to a chronic workforce shortage.

“Eketahuna patients are best served by MidCentral DHB.”

It can provide acute care, planned care already accepted and planned care other than orthopaedic and gastroenterology.

“If some of our specific services don’t have capacity, out-of-domicile patients from Eketahuna are benefited by access to their own DHB,” Wairarapa DHB spokeswoman Anna Cardo said.

“Meantime, we are doing our best to manage our waitlists and are grateful that our patients can receive care out of the area, with the co-operation of our neighbouring DHBs.”

Chairwoman of Eketahuna Health Centre Adrienne Dempsey said there were several reasons Eketahuna patients were not able to go to Wairarapa Hospital.

“The health system is still underfunded and with an ageing population the need for orthopaedic surgeons is only going to increase and this needs to be addressed,” Dempsey said.

“Underfunding means retired Eketahuna people are stuck with having to drive over a long, windy road now the Manawatu Gorge is closed. So, getting to Palmerston North now isn’t comfortable or easy.”

Dempsey said the fact the cut off-line for Wairarapa Hospital population base is just south of Eketahuna is basically the cause of the problem and leaders really need to think about how that works for the Eketahuna population.

“We vote for Wairarapa MPs but we never hear from any of them,” she said.

“None of them are doing anything for us. And because we are set up to be with MidCentral DHB we vote for health board members there but as the voting system is first past the post, we don’t get to have a representative on that board so we have no voice anywhere.

“Central government really needs to get more money to Wairarapa as the population is growing, and get Eketahuna people into that healthcare catchment.

“It really is not fair to make elderly, in particular, drive for an hour and a half when it is only 25 minutes to Masterton.”

She said if the powers-that-be won’t move the Wairarapa DHB catchment line to include Eketahuna then at least Wairarapa should get some MidCentral DHB money down to the Wairarapa DHB.

“This is an election issue and I want to see some movement on the issue.”

Wairarapa Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty has met Dale Oliff and Dr Shawn Sturland about the fact that some Eketahuna people were not clear about why they were not able to access Wairarapa Hospital at the moment.

He said he engaged the Minister of Health about the issue and the Minister spoke with the chairman of the DHB Sir Paul Collins.

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