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