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Concern over fate . . . There are fears that Waikari Hospital might not have a part in the Canterbury District Health Board’s longer-term plans. PHOTO: DAYNA BURTON

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Fears that Waikari Hospital may be under threat of closure are growing in the community.

Disquiet about the hospital’s future began mid last year and gained momentum when the Hurunui Model of Care roadshow began visiting communities in recent weeks.

Community members who contacted the North Canterbury News believe the hospital’s future is being “muddied” by the consultation on the Model of Care proposal, which is being developed by Hurunui Health Services Development Group (HHSDG) and facilitated by the Canterbury Clinical Network.

They believe there is a lot happening behind the scenes and, since a Model of Care meeting in Waikari attended by about 70 people, their disquiet has increased.

They say in recent months cardiac patients and other medical transfers from Christchurch and Burwood Hospital have stopped. The practice, which is decades old, has allowed patients, both local and from other areas, extra time to convalesce, particularly for those with no support at home.

This is despite being reassured at the meeting by Canterbury District Health Board funding and planning general manager Carolyn Gullery, that Waikari hospital was not on the agenda for closure.

She told the News this week that no decision has been made about the future of Waikari Hospital and no decision will be taken without consultation with staff and the community, which would be signalled well in advance.

“There is no plan to commence consultation in the next year.

“In regard to patient transfer, there are clear criteria for this based on a patient’s medical and rehabilitation needs and where they live.

“The same approach is being applied to all rural hospitals as we see they have a core role in providing support for end-of-life care and hospital avoidance, so that people do not need to be away from their community unnecessarily,” Ms Gullery says.

She says the Canterbury Clinical Network-led Hurunui Model of Care work is ongoing, and “while this alone will not determine the future of Waikari Hospital, it may highlight some opportunities as to how we deliver health care across the Hurunui district”.

Feedback on the model of care is being sought from the community, and the deadline for that feedback was recently extended to January 7.

Marie Black, chair of the HHSDG and Hurunui deputy mayor, also distanced the Waikari Hospital from the Model of Care document this week, saying the “life of the Waikari Hospital” had become “entangled” with the Hurunui Model of Care but “clearly it isn’t part of it”.

She said there was no intention for any particular building to be employed under the Model of Care but, like all areas developing Models of Care, the proposal was a process to see if there were better ways of delivering health care in the Hurunui district and looked at the efficiency of the health spend.

However, minutes from Canterbury District Health Board meeting on December 14, has done little to ease concerns about the hospital’s future, despite these reassurances.

An update on the Model of Care in the minutes says : “This model would [include] closer integration between the five general practices (particularly in the delivery of urgent care after-hours) and an observation capability in Amberley to reduce patient flow and transfer into Christchurch Hospital.”

Community members believe Amberley is already being targeted by the board for an “observation capability” when there is a perfectly good facility at Waikari Hospital, which is more central to the wider North Canterbury community.