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Thames Hospital Again Under Threat

What is the pride of Thames?

Arguably, it is our wonderful Hospital facility – an institution once under great threat from the Hamilton bureaucrats determined to save money in the face of health cuts, and redirection of priorities. District hospitals of the nature of that at Thames came under huge pressure at the turn of the century.

I have friends, and I am sure you do to, who have indicated to me that the threat of closure was the one issue that brought this entire community together in one solid amalgamation of interests to ensure not only its survival, but its transition into an efficient provider of services for the entire Peninsula, not to mention the 130,000 tourists expected during Christmas / New Year.

The rumbling of discontent that accompanied the proposal to close the hospital, or operate vastly reduced services met with such strong resistance that I have been told that it was one of the principal reasons that National, through Murray McLean lost the local election to the Greens Jeanette Fitzsimons. Labour came around to accept the need to respond to the tumult in the area, and agreed finally in 2000 to maintain it, and restore some of its run-down facilities. These upgrades, and new out-patients department, along with a new maternity facility were completed in 2014.

It is well recognized that following the retirement on long-standing and highly respected specialists, including John Lennane and Paul Silvester, that Hamilton was having difficulty recruiting and keeping replacements, and this is now the excuse being used for once again threatening closure of the facility as we know it.

The proposal is that Te Korowai take over the running of a much reduced ‘feeder’ operation along the lines of those that have been established in towns of similar size all over the country – Taupo and Oamaru come mind. It is unlikely that services like the well-equipped radiology unit would remain, along with many others requiring specialist input. 

The Te Korowai proposal has a certain resonance about it – the provision of the land needed for the hospital was originally provided by Chief Taipari of Ngati Maru, and it is certain that Ngati Maru would object strongly to the land being used for any other purpose – no matter what the rationale. Further, the recent signing of the Hauraki Settlement at the Beehive provides a wonderful opportunity for Government, and the Health Board to demonstrate their commitment to the Settlement by arranging for the transfer.

It appears likely that these new arrangements will be announced in the near future, but my informant has assured me that every effort is being made to keep them ‘under wraps’ for as long as possible in order to avoid raising passionate objections from within our community, and to allow the ‘arrangements’ to be managed with maximum ‘spin’ in order to avoid an unfavourable reaction.

I have made an OIR to the Board requesting the information concerning whatever Board decisions have been taken in this regard, if any, but have been told that I will have to await the full 20 working days they are permitted to reply.

I do not think this is satisfactory – the information is clearly out there in the public arena – my source is what is normally described as ‘impeccable,’ and the logic of the move seems exactly in accordance with what we have been told through many sources about the alleged difficulty of securing the services of specialists to work at Thames Hospital. Questioning of one the specialist James Mackay lecturers regarding the continuation of his particular specialty elicited such an evasive response that suspicions were immediately aroused – later supported by the information outlined above.

This generation of Thames residents may need to gird their loins, and organise for another battle if we are to maintain our current facilities. Otherwise, prepare for far greater travel to Hamilton for even minor treatment options.




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Reader Comments (1)

What a surprise to read this Bill! Thanks for following-up such an important matter. A few initial thoughts:
- How hard have the powers that be, tried to get specialists to continue the present services in Thames? or has the effort towards this been somewhat half-hearted to 'self-fulfil' a policy for change that has already been favoured?
- In any event, Specialists already come to Thames from Hamilton - I have been fortunate to have had the benefit of such a service!
- Is there not much more sense in having medical staff come to Thames from Hamilton if/when needed - to continue the present services, in the present top-class relatively new facilities - rather than forcing many more unwell patients having to endure trips back and forth, to and from Hamilton? Is is often advocated that patients do better in health facilities closer to home, in surroundings familiar to them, and with the more convenient support they can receive from family and friends.
- Thames hospital serves the whole Coromandel Peninsula. A significant cut-back in services available in Thames will be of even more disadvantage to patients in the more remote northern and eastern parts of the Peninsula.
- If this restructuring proposal is taken further, it will be very interesting to see how our MP, and our District Council, approach the matter. Elections for both will be on the horizon in not too long!

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTim

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