Specialist hospital services on the West Coast are set for a shake-up with the Government's announcement that it is fast-tracking the redevelopment of the ageing and quake-prone Grey Base Hospital in Greymouth.
Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced the establishment of a working group to come up with a long-term plan for the hospital.
The group will have members from the West Coast District Health Board, the Health Ministry and Treasury and has been given $1 million by the Government to come up with its proposal.
That is in addition to $2 million already provided for emergency repairs to the hospital, after an engineering report found it was a serious earthquake-risk.
However some fear redevelopment of the the West Coast's main health facility could result in a downgrade of services.
Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said Mr Ryall has already rejected a very reasonably-priced redevelopment option.
Mr Hague said this suggests the Government would prefer to shift secondary services to Christchurch and turn Grey Base Hospital into a primary care centre, putting patients' lives at risk.
West Coast District Health Board chief executive, David Meates, who also heads the Canterbury DHB, said the plan is for more services on the West Coast, but some will be provided in a different way than in the past.
Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn welcomed the Government's move and said redevelopment of the hospital will help attract and retain specialist staff.