Warnings from Blenheim must be heeded

Health Minister Tony Ryall cannot ignore warnings that cuts to services at provincial hospitals will cost lives, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

A standing-room only public meeting in Blenheim last night heard that proposed changes to general and orthopaedic services at Wairau Hospital were not only unacceptable – with high risk patients having to travel to Nelson – but would ‘see people die’.

“Tony Ryall has been sent the strongest of messages. As he says himself, he is the one wielding the scalpel – he signs off the final decision.

“He should heed the warnings. The fears of the community are real. They are not something that can be tossed aside.

“Given the arrogant and underhand way Mr Ryall initiated the review and his track record on ‘consultation’, however, I’m not holding my breath.

“The Blenheim community has made it clear it will not tolerate cuts. The Chamber of Commerce has warned reducing services will have an impact on the ability to keep people in the district. Midwives say it will be too risky to work in Blenheim if surgeons are not available.

“Mr Ryall can promise to listen all he likes. We know his definition of listening is quite different to the dictionary definition.

“But in this case – and in the case of the other communities whose hospitals are undergoing reviews – he needs to open his ears and really take note of the concerns.”