Reefton Hospital assurance

By Laura Mills

Reefton Hospital has stopped accepting patients but the West Coast District Health Board today moved to reassure that it was not closing.
The board meeting recently was told that health services in Reefton were to be reviewed. A week later, the Labour Party said the people of Reefton needed assurance over their hospital, after Health Minister Tony Ryall refused to guarantee in Parliament that it would remain open.
Reefton Hospital has 12 beds for hospital-level, rest home and palliative care.
The board said today because they were currently full, and due to the staffing situation with no doctor and a shortage of nurses, it would not be taking extra patients.
Local councillor Graeme Neylon said the community was concerned.
DHB programme director Michael Frampton met with hospital staff on Monday and reassured them that despite rumours, the facility was not about to close.
All services throughout the Coast were reviewed by the DHB to ensure they continued to meet the needs of the community, he said.
“People shouldn’t read too much into that — reviewing services is an ongoing process. It’s what we do to ensure we are providing the right resources in the right place to meet the needs of the community,” Mr Frampton said.
“At the moment, we’re reviewing mental health services and we’ve recently completed a review of maternity services.”
Two nurses recently left Reefton to further their careers in other parts of New Zealand, and one had left for family reasons, leaving the hospital short-staffed.
However, they now had nursing cover until mid-December and the DHB was working hard to have permanent staff recruited by the end of the year.
“I would encourage everyone in Reefton to help with our recruitment efforts by telling their friends and family about the benefits of living in such a great community,” Mr Frampton said.
“Continued speculation that facilities in Reefton are about to close does not help with our recruitment of clinicians, and I’m keen to dispel these myths.”
He said nursing, GP recruitment to technology, maintenance, budgets, communications, community care and discharge summaries were all discussed at the meeting on Monday.
Mr Frampton said he had set as a priority getting around the Coast and speaking with staff, having also just visited Franz Josef Glacier and Westport.
“I would like to think that my visits to facilities aren’t seen as a sign of bad news. As a leader in our health system, it’s important that I get to know our people and the challenges faced as we work to provide sustainable health services for a geographically diverse population,” he said.
Twenty-five years ago Reefton residents formed a human chain around their hospital in a bid to keep it open.
Cr Neylon said: “I’ve got a list around of all the services Reefon used to get — we used to have our own x-ray, dentist, specialists. Now we have to go down to Greymouth.”
If a child hurt themselves at the skate park and had a suspected broken bone, it was a long way to drive for the x-ray, Cr Neylon said.