Sick Eketahuna residents blocked from receiving local care by DHB

Wairarapa District Health Board is under fire for stopping local residents from receiving care, following a severe shortage of medical staff.

It now means sick Eketahuna residents have to travel to Palmerston North to receive planned treatments.

Peter Waring's wife Julie is in desperate need of surgery, and was too sick to talk today.

"She's been waiting more than 18 months now to have her hip fixed, going downhill all the time," Peter told Newshub.

Getting treating has become much harder for the Warings, because their usual quick trip to hospital has turned into a three-hour nightmare.

"Makes my blood boil, really," Peter told Newshub. "They are, shall we say, not very kind about the way they've done these things."

The Wairarapa District Health Board started forcing Eketahuna's 400 residents to change hospitals from nearby Masterton to Palmerston North 18 months ago.

The drive from Eketahuna to Masterton is just 30 minutes. In comparison, the journey to Palmerston North takes double the time and includes travelling on a dangerous winding road.

Community leaders say they're fearing for residents' mental health.

"I actually spoke to a lady today and she would not travel to Palmerston North and she would rather pull the plug than actually have to go there," Eketahuna Community Board member Denise Clifton told Newshub.

Wairarapa DHB's chief medical officer says he understands the frustration, but his priority is quality care.

"It's not a money thing, it's not a flow thing. It's basically we don't have enough doctors to deliver service here," Shawn Sturland says.

"It wouldn't be beneficial for these patients to join our waiting lists in this region."

He says he will allow Eketahuna residents back to Wairarapa Hospital as soon as possible, but it won't be soon as new surgeons are coming from overseas.

"And that means they need to proceed through immigration and registration procedures, which can take several months," he says.

This leaves Peter and Julie unconvinced, and worried that help won't come in time.