Newly-appointed Northern Southland Medical Trust director Aaron Wilson wants Health Minister David Clark to front up and discuss the possible closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre.
The trust is responsible for the governance of the maternity centre and the Lumsden Medical Centre.
Two new directors, Mr Wilson and Ebel Kramer, of Te Anau, were appointed at the trust’s annual meeting recently.
Mr Wilson said he did not believe it was good enough for the minister to distance himself from the debate about whether the Lumsden Maternity Centre should stay open.
“I really think we need to see some leadership from the health minister, who won’t even meet with us to discuss these issues.
“The minister hasn’t been willing to engage or talk to anyone from the medical trust.
“It’s been quite vexing.”
It was important the issue was discussed.
“I’m quite happy to engage and quite happy to listen to all the points of view, because that’s how you get a consensus or how you can move forward.”
However, it appeared the decision-makers did not want to be involved.
“It’s the people in power not willing to engage, and that, to me, is mind boggling,” Mr Wilson said.
He believed it was the minister’s job to be involved in the discussion.
“He owes a duty of care to us to at least discuss the matter.
“That’s what governments are elected for – to look after their people.”
Mr Wilson made himself available to serve on the trust because he believed it was important for the Lumsden Maternity Centre to stay open.
“It’s crisis time for this. I’m not sure whether I can help but I would like to be involved, because it seems to me it’s do or die.”
If Northern Southland lost the maternity centre it was likely people would have to travel to access antenatal and post natal services.
“If we want our services to remain at a bare minimum then we need to retain these sorts of things.
“We can’t have people travelling out of the district.”
The possibility the centre would close seemed at odds with the Labour Party’s pre-election promises, he said.
“It’s disappointing, bearing in mind we have a coalition Government that’s been elected on eliminating poverty or increasing services to New Zealand.”
Dr Clark said it was the Southern District Health Board’s role to decide how best to deliver maternity services in its region and meet the needs of the community.
“Once the DHB has made its decision, it will discuss it with the Ministry of Health before it makes any public announcement.
“I have asked the ministry to review that decision to provide me with assurance the local community will continue to receive appropriate, high-quality maternity care.”
Dr Clark acknowledged there were strong feelings in the community about the future of the Lumsden Maternity Centre.
“That’s understandable. People are rightly protective of local services.
“The DHB extended its consultation process mainly as a result of that strong public opinion.”