Council agrees to negotiate with Health NZ

Published on 02 April 2024

Oamaru Hospital limestone building.jpg

Following receipt and consideration of confidential advice from Waitaki District Health Services Limited (WDHSL) and related information, the Waitaki District Mayor and Councillors have agreed to begin negotiations with Health NZ Te Whatu Ora over a potential transfer of staff and services and returning operations of the Ōamaru Hospital to Health NZ.

This took place in a public excluded session of the Tuesday 26 March Council Meeting, due to commercial sensitivities regarding some details. The Council also commissioned a review to consider options for the future sustainability of health services in Waitaki and established a working group to work with the review and support negotiations.

This is not a final decision on the future of the hospital, but a decision to enter negotiations with Health NZ. If negotiations are successful, a proposal will be presented to Council in the future for Council to decide if it will transfer the services.

Mayor Gary Kircher said: “We want to reassure the community that these negotiations start from the critical position of maintaining a hospital and health services in Ōamaru, for the Waitaki district.

Waitaki District Council, through WDHSL, has had operational control of Ōamaru Hospital since 1 July 1999. Without Council and WDHSL, Ōamaru Hospital would have closed in the 1990s. Due to the stewardship of our Council, we have been able to ensure Waitaki has had a hospital for 25 years.

Our community should not be paying twice for its hospital, through general taxation and rates. Ensuring the hospital service remains here is our priority and initial discussions with Health NZ have been encouraging in that respect.”

Chief Executive Alex Parmley said: “As sole shareholder in WDHSL, the priority of Council is to secure the long-term future of the hospital and its services, and to ensure that hospital staff are looked after throughout any potential transition. With Council’s decision, formal negotiations with Health NZ can now begin.

There is a lot to discuss and, if we can reach a proposal that works for our community, we will let our residents know what that looks like, before bringing it back to Council for a decision on whether to go ahead or not.”

Staff at the Ōamaru Hospital have been informed about the Council’s decision.

Council will provide further information in due course.