Charity hospital's success 'an indictment' of public hospital under-funding, say surgeons

The huge success of Canterbury's charity hospital is being described by surgeons as an indictment of the poor state of the public health system.

More than 14,000 people, who were denied health care, have been treated over the last decade. Source: 1 NEWS

Since opening a decade ago, volunteer medics have given free treatments to over 14,000 patients who were denied health care in the public system.

The Canterbury Charity Hospital is certainly a success story, but it's founder, Dr Phil Bagshaw, says it's also proof of the unmet demand for hospital-level healthcare.

"It's a mixed emotion really. It's wonderful what's happened. It's also bittersweet. It shouldn't be necessary," Dr Bagshaw said. 

The 14,377 patients the charity hospital has helped free of charge include 4950 outpatient treatments, 2045 dental treatments, and lately, 3587 post-earthquake counselling services. 

It takes 300 volunteers to make the hospital work, but it still costs $15,000 a week to run.

Ian Powell of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says those working at the charity hospital have done an extraordinary job.

"On the other hand it's an indictment of the continued government policy to under-resource, to underfund our public hospitals," he said.

But the Minister of Health, Jonathan Coleman, disagrees.

"They do very good work there, but the fact is no government, either National or Labour, has ever been able to provide every operation that every person has wanted," he said. 

This charity hospital's aim is to close because it's no longer needed, but its founders don't expect that to happen anytime soon.