Phyl Phipps, 90, says something is brewing in the small West Coast district of Buller, but it’s not tea.
The retired school teacher says the community is “fuming” at a plan to semi-privatise the local hospital and cut beds by 80%.
Mrs Phipps, a spokesperson for the Buller Hospital Action Group, will speak to the Health Select Committee about the communities concerns today.
Due to flight delays from Westport, a public hearing at Room 2, Bowen House from 10am – 10.20am will be delayed or conducted by phone.
The West Coast Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group (HRPG), a government-appointed body, wants to replace the 35-bed Buller Hospital with a 10-bed health centre.
ACC will build the new facility and lease it back to the West Coast District Health Board (WCDHB).
The DHB opposed the private funding plan on the basis it would be more expensive than the usual Government funding. 
The senior doctor’s union (ASMS) estimates the plan will end up “syphoning” millions of dollars from the local health budget. 
Mrs Phipps says Buller, where she has lived her entire life, is “a guinea pig” for a model the Government will use elsewhere.
“They thought they could get away with their experiment in a small isolated town,” she says. “But boy did they pick the wrong town.”
Phipps collected 2,500 signatures, more than half of Westport’s population, on a petition asking the Government to fund the new facility. 
She delivered the petition to Parliament on 30 May 2017.
But she says privatisation isn’t the town’s only concern
“The people who designed the plan don’t live on the coast and didn’t consul the community,” she says. “Their design cuts beds by a fifth, 20 rooms are so small they’re below Australasian standards, they want to build it on a swamp, there isn’t a helipad despite helicopters visiting up to three times a day, and they want to move the hospital manager 100km away.”
Phipps wants a new plan drawn up by the DHB, community and local health workforce.
Steve White, a landscape architect supporting Phipps, says HRPG based the new facility designs on “ideology, not clinical need”.
“I’ve designed and built things for 30 years,” he says. “Before this plan, I’d never seen a pre-build proposal that wasn’t capable of achieving what it was designed for.”
He says the plan will waste taxpayers money, put patients and staff at risk and leave a financial burden on the next generation.
The action group has planned a march through Westport on Saturday 26 August from 11:30 am – 2 pm starting at Victoria Square, in front of the Grandstand. 
The group’s organising committee is secret due to concerns DHB employees in the group could be “blacklisted”.
Mrs Phipps started her teaching career seventy years ago in 1947.
She’s never organised a petition before but isn’t a stranger to community work.
Phipps received a Rotary award for her years of community service and played a key role in getting the town’s sports hall built.
 https://www.yeswecare.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/BHAG-Submission-to-Health-Select-Committee-2017-08-09.pdf, page 12, Scanlan, Lee, “Non-coasters decide Westports health centre” in The Westport News.