Letter to the Editor: WDHB meetings with the public are extensive

After reading Jay Kuten’s March 23 Letter to the Editor I feel it warrants a reply.

Jay is not alone in criticising the Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) consultation process with the public over the Regional Women’s Health Service. He says the meetings proposed by the WDHB are too few in number, they are being held at  inappropriate times and that WDHB chief executive Julie Patterson’s response that she was meeting with Rotary at noon was ‘laughable if it were not so sad’.

I wish to set the record straight by telling you, Jay, our other critics and the wider community that the consultation process now underway is both comprehensive and very inclusive of every section of our community. I take great exception to the criticism around Mrs Patterson’s comment. She mentioned Rotary was the next group (not the only group) she was meeting with, to give the reporter an example of who she was meeting with. 

I want it known that over the past few weeks Mrs Patterson, other members of the WDHB management team and a small number of board members have travelled extensively to reach out and meet with residents living in all corners of our district.

A good example of the community meetings held to date is the one in Raetihi on 13 March and then again in Taihape on 14 March. But they are only two of many examples. I give you the list of meetings held to date.

12 March, all day meeting  – College of Midwives at Wanganui Hospital

13 March, 4.30pm – Public Meeting at The Centre, Raetihi

14 March, 4.30pm – Public Meeting in the Council Chambers, Taihape

19 March, 12pm – Rotary Wanganui at the Kingsgate Hotel

20 March, 7.30am – GPs and PHOs meeting at Wanganui Hospital

20 March, 7pm – Zonta at The Brick House

21 March, 10am – Birthright at their premises

And those soon to take place:

26 March, 2pm  - St John’s Ambulance at St John Ambulance

26 March, 3.15pm – WDHB board sub-committee with community representatives at the Wanganui District Council

26 March, 5.30pm - Public meeting at Central Baptist Church, Wanganui

27 March, 12pm – Hauora a Iwi – Whanganui River Maori Trust Board

27 March, 1.15pm – Jigsaw at Jigsaw

27 March, 2.30pm - Midwives and LMCs at WDHB

28 March, 2pm – Public meeting at Central Baptist Church

29 March, 9am – Chamber of Commerce

29 March, 11am – SANDs in Victoria Court

2 April, 3pm – Pacifika at Aramoho School

Please note the public meeting times were chosen after careful consideration and dialogue with members of the public. The meeting times with stakeholders and interest groups were requested by those parties.

I should point out that cnce the proposal went public before the formal engagement process began, a number of meetings took place. These included meetings with district Mayors and MPs.

And it’s important to note that invitations have been issued to an extensive list of women’s, Maori and community groups thought to have an interest in our women and children. The number who have taken up our offer to meet with them is not large however the invitation stands until consultation closes on April 11.

Our engagement with the community has been designed to occur mostly in smaller groups (while still holding the larger meetings) where we really do have the opportunity to talk with, and really listen to people.  It is those conversations where people are free to frankly exchange their views (and not where there are a couple of hundred others listening) that often have “the real oil”.  I also note that the engagement process has been designed very much in keeping with the MOH guidelines to DHBs on consultation.

Finally, I would ask you Jay and our critics to please call me if you wish to discuss any matters around the Regional Women’s Health Service Proposal.  I am not adverse to a robust discussion or indeed criticism. But it makes me very angry when the criticism is not accurate because no effort has been made to check the facts. Just because something is not in the paper (the list of meetings held and about to be held) it does not mean it is not happening.

Kate Joblin
WDHB board chair