SOUTHLAND’S healthcare woes were in the spotlight last week as Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins began her multi-day tour of the south.
The National Party leader visited the region with Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds and Southland MP Joseph Mooney.
The itinerary included a tour of the Southland Charity Hospital, which is under construction.
When asked her thoughts after walking through the building, she said: “Well, it’s clearly not being built by the Government because it is actually getting done.”
It was an indictment on the Government that it had not understood there was an increase in population and increased need in Southland, particularly for colonoscopies, she said.
As the opposition, they could propose solutions and highlight deficiencies.
Health targets of district health boards mattered and should be focused on.
Speaking about local issues, Ms Simmonds said health services in Southland had been neglected by the Government, as well as the previous Labour government.
“When they built a hospital here, that was too small, 90 beds short and two theatres based on the wrong population projections.”
This resulted in the compounding of issues which had not been addressed, she said.
Mr Mooney explained the region was also subject to a postcode lottery when it came to receiving care.
He said charity hospital board member and cancer care advocate Melissa Vining had done well highlighting that.
“Southland has the worst bowel cancer rates in the country and New Zealand has one of the worst in the world.
“We’re the worst of the worst but we’re not getting the services we need.”
Speaking about the controversial announcement of a proposed $780 million cycle bridge in Auckland, Ms Collins said the money should go into roading or solving other matters such as the need for the charity hospital.
“It’s not a nice-to-have here in Southland, it’s a needs-to-have.”
However, she doubted it would be built.
Speaking of the 2019 coalition announcement of $1.9 billion investment in mental health services, she said National agreed with it.
But nothing had been done.
“It’s worse to promise and not deliver. That false hope given to people is an absolute travesty.”
Ms Collins’ visit also included a trip to Winton and speaking with the farming community to hear about challenges they were facing.
She also visited the Glenkenich Water Scheme Group, attended a Pomahaka Land Care and Water Group morning tea, and saw the Waipahi Wetland.