Health bosses re­ject clown

Fast-food chain’s char­ity gets short shrift from hos­pi­tal, writes Hamish McNeilly.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

A top health man­ager has likened a pro­posed Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House at the new Dunedin Hos­pi­tal to ac­cept­ing beer and cig­a­rette spon­sor­ship.

The is­sue made headlines in 2017 af­ter Pub­lic Health South of­fi­cials balked at the prospect of the fast food gi­ant’s brand be­ing as­so­ci­ated with the new fa­cil­ity.

The site of the new hos­pi­tal, with an es­ti­mated $1.4bil­lion pric­etag, has yet to be an­nounced.

The po­ten­tial part­ner­ship with Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House, which is yet to be ap­proved by the South­ern District Health Board, prompted a flurry of emails be­tween health of­fi­cials, now re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act.

The emails in­cluded sev­eral from health board chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Flem­ing, who noted the ser­vices the char­ity pro­vided were ‘‘greatly ap­pre­ci­ated’’. How­ever, he said he could un­der­stand the con­cerns raised by Pub­lic Health South of­fi­cials.

‘‘We clearly would not tol­er­ate the Roth­mans House, nor I as­sume would we tol­er­ate ‘Speight’s House’.’’

Dur­ing me­dia cov­er­age of the is­sue, Flem­ing then emailed two health of­fi­cials say­ing he was ‘‘some­what dis­ap­pointed that we have al­ready at­tempted to use the me­dia to in­flu­ence opin­ion’’.

‘‘Presently the opin­ion does not ap­pear to be com­ing down on the side ex­pressed by Pub­lic Health.’’

His view was backed by a DHB spokes­woman, who said com­ments on so­cial me­dia had said Pub­lic Health South was tak­ing a ‘‘nanny state’’ po­si­tion.

The tranche of emails also re­vealed Flem­ing was in­vited to a char­ity event for Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House, which was ‘‘con­tin­u­ing to ex­pand our reach through­out New Zealand’’.

He also met with un­named rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the char­ity in Christchurch on De­cem­ber 11, and re­ceived sev­eral emails from DHB staff sup­port­ing the fa­cil­ity.

‘‘Mc­Don­ald’s don’t run a drive-thru in the car park,’’ one said.

‘‘We have stayed at Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House more times than I care to count and I can­not speak higher of a char­ity,’’ an­other said.

No for­mal of­fer has of­fi­cially been made by Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald Char­i­ties for a fa­cil­ity in the new Dunedin Hos­pi­tal. An SDHB re­port in De­cem­ber noted there was a ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant need’’ for off­site ac­com­mo­da­tion at the re­de­vel­oped fa­cil­ity.

Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House Char­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Wayne Howett said there were no im­me­di­ate plans to build a Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House in Dunedin.

‘‘Any plans would be very de­pen­dent on hos­pi­tal de­vel­op­ment plans and any fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties to talk to the South­ern DHB.’’

Doc­u­ments prior to amal­ga­ma­tion, the then-Otago and South­land DHBs were ap­proached by the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald South Is­land Trust in 2008.

A 2013 pro­posal for

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