West Coast District Health Board chairman Rick Barker says he is not opposed in principle to health reforms that would cull the number of DHBs around the country.
The government is proposing to reduce the boards from 20 to about 12 within the next five years, end DHB elections and appoint all the members.
Speaking at the official opening of the Te Nikau Hospital on Friday, Barker said the concern with amalgamation was that small communities like the Coast would have their concerns and aspirations overshadowed by larger population groups.
He told the Greymouth Star that some media had reported him as opposing the reforms.
"I am not objecting to reform as such - we can always do better, but the essential thing is that local voices are retained," Barker said.
Smaller populations were apprehensive that their concerns would be outweighed. But a potential amalgamation between Canterbury and the West Coast DHBs could work, as long as those local West Coast voices were retained, he said.
"We already have a trans-alpine alliance that supports services on the Coast, and as long as elected representatives remained on a combined board, the region's interests could be safeguarded.
"People want to know that their community is represented at the table where decisions are being made. I can say from first-hand knowledge that this board is stronger and richer for the community elected representatives.
"This board has strong clear voices from Buller, Westland and Grey - they are irreplaceable. Without these voices we would be a health provider, invoking a transactional relationship with the community, not a public health system," Barker said.
"Change and restructure the public health system by all means, seek improvements, we need them, but keep the connections the Coast has with its health system."
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