The Counties Manukau board had not even known of the offer from Ronald McDonald Charities before it was turned down. Photo / File

Like experts in many things, doctors specialising in the study of “public health” are prone to tunnel vision. In their determination to counter the damage done by smoking, drinking, sugar, fast foods or anything else harmful to many, they are inclined to ignore all other considerations.

That is what happened when two of the country’s district health boards declined offers of a Ronald McDonald House for their hospitals.

It turns out these decisions were not made by the boards of the Counties Manukau and Southern DHBs but by executives who deferred to their public health physicians. Today we reveal the board of Counties Manukau has stepped in to “review” its executive team’s decision.

Not before time. The spurning of offers from Ronald McDonald House Charities has been widely criticised among the public, who constantly hear that DHBs are strapped for cash.
Only ideologues reject a valuable offer because it also serves a commercial purpose.

Of course, these houses providing accommodation for the families of sick children are funded by McDonalds for its public relations, but the houses serve a social need and the ideologues of public heath need to credit the public with common sense. It is possible to appreciate the accommodation without losing sight of the risks posed by eating too many hamburgers.

Counties Manukau chairman Lester Levy says his board had not even known of the offer from Ronald McDonald Charities before it was turned down. With hindsight he believes the board should have been alerted to what its executive leadership team had decided under delegated authority. But would the board have over-ruled the decision before this newspaper revealed it to the public last month?

Campaigners against anything blamed for obesity, heart disease or cancers appear to have a great deal of influence in health policy these days, and that is likely to increase under a Labour-led Government.

It is worth noting, therefore, that the first Ronald McDonald House opened in a New Zealand hospital in 1991 and there are now two in Auckland, and one each in Wellington and Christchurch. Middlemore and Dunedin hospitals believe they need family accommodation too but they would prefer a different sponsor.

Dr Levy’s executives have been looking for alternative philanthropic funds through the Middlemore Foundation. Now they have been told to bring all definitive proposals to the board, including Ronald McDonald’s.

Naming rights are a fair price to pay for the happiness and benefits brought to hospitals. For families with sick children it has a good name.

Source: Herald on Sunday

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