Top legal firm Chen Palmer has been engaged to fight the closure of a community diabetes service after the local health board pulled its funding.
The Hawke's Bay District Health Board has not renewed its contract with the GPSI diabetic service and has instructed director Dr Janet Titchener to not take on any new patients. She has until March 31 to finish treating the last 15 patients.
Titchener, a general practitioner with special expertise in diabetes, is dumbfounded by the decision.
"It's immoral. It's unethical. This is people's health we're talking about," she said. "Patients say they wouldn't be alive today if it hadn't been for the service."
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Last week, lawyers from Chen Palmer wrote to the board challenging the decision and asking it to renew the contract. The DHB said it was in the process of responding.
Titchener said patients had recorded stunning health results, many keeping their chronic disease in check once treatment had finished. That meant thousands of type 2 diabetes sufferers avoided expensive hospital treatment.
Chief medical officer for primary care, Dr Mark Peterson, said the service catered to only 1.2 per cent of the 7,990 patients living with diabetes in Hawke's Bay. The board had a responsibility to ensure everyone had the same access to publicly funded treatment.