11 Sep 2019

Plan for charity hospital in Southland being launched

4:40 pm on 11 September 2019

If attempts to launch a charity community hospital in Southland are successful it will be one of a select few in the country.

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Melissa and Blair Vining have been campaigning for better cancer care since Mr Vining was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. Photo: Facebook / Screenshot

Melissa Vining and her husband Blair are launching their plan for a charity hospital in Southland with a meeting of interested parties, which will be held in Invercargill at 6pm.

The pair have been campaigning for better cancer care since Mr Vining was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer last October.

Melissa Vining said a charity hospital would meet the need for greater bowel cancer diagnosis in the south.

They have been mentored in their efforts by Professor Philip Bagshaw, who set up the Canterbury Charity Hospital in Christchurch.

That hospital was the only one of its kind in the country at present, providing free elective day surgery, medical outpatients clinics, dentistry and counselling for those in the Canterbury community who could not access care from the public or private health systems.

A similar service operated in Auckland - the Auckland Regional Charity Hospital - but unlike its southern counterpart it had no fixed facilities and was a "virtual hospital" operating out of other medical facilities, Mr Bagshaw said.

Professor Bagshaw was pleased to help the Vinings.

"We're delighted to be able to help by giving them advice on how to proceed," he said.

"It's regrettable that entities such as charity hospitals need to be considered at all, but while health resources are underfunded nationwide in general, it's clear that people in the regions, like Southland, are suffering badly."

Mrs Vining said it was hoped a charity hospital in Southland would start by offering colonoscopies to patients left languishing on waiting lists.

The hope was then to expand the service to include diagnosis and treatment for other conditions, she said.

"Southland is a great place to live and we want to have great healthcare for people no matter where they live. We haven't got time for more government reviews and reports - we really need action."

Since her husband was diagnosed, hundreds of people had contacted them about being denied services by the Southern DHB.

"We've had a few challenges through the system but as part of sharing our story we've just had a lot of people contact us with far worse stories where they've had a high suspicion of cancer, are referred for a colonoscopy and are unable to get that. They are declined that important diagnostic test.

"So we really wanted to find a solution. We fund raised for a few people one-at-a-time to get private colonoscopies but it's just not a sustainable way to deal with the large number of people who are requiring that service."

If they could establish a charity hospital, Mr Vining's suffering would not have been in vain, Mrs Vining said.

Professor Bagshaw, his wife Dame Sue Bagshaw and Carl Shaw from the Canterbury Charity Hospital, would be at tonight's meeting in Invercargill, along with local businesses, doctors, nurses and others interested in helping the Vinings.

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