A public health group wants the Southern District Health Board to block Ronald McDonald House from setting up in the new Dunedin Hospital.

Yesterday, Ronald McDonald House Charities said it was keen to set up a house in the rebuilt hospital.

Public Health Association Otago-Southland branch chairwoman Mary-Ann McKibben said Southern should follow Counties Manukau and avoid links with the fast-food giant.

On the advice of public health staff, Auckland health bosses recently dropped plans for a Ronald McDonald House at Middlemore Hospital.

“McDonald’s restaurants are inextricably linked to the Ronald McDonald House charity as a contributor and through the publicity they derive as a corporate partner.

“It is troubling, at best, for an organisation that for the most part serves the kind of food associated with increasing weight and an increased burden of diseases within our population to be linked with the health services,” McKibben said.

She said the fast-food giant could give financial support, but should not have naming rights.

“Their branding should not be used. If their intentions are truly altruistic, then this won’t be an issue,” McKibben said.

Ronald McDonald House Charities chief executive Wayne Howett said his organisation had had “initial positive conversations” with Southern DHB about the possibility of a house in Dunedin.

“We look forward to progressing conversations at a later date in line with Southern DHB’s timelines [for the new Dunedin Hospital].”

Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the board had not been “formally approached” on the matter but would consider any such proposal in due course.

Dunedin mother Sheryl Cawte was dismayed by the stance taken by public health advocates.

“[Ronald McDonald House] is one of the greatest services that we have in terms of helping families be with loved ones during usually pretty extreme medical situations.

“Our outcomes for our daughter would have been a very different situation for us if we did not have that.”

She stayed at Ronald McDonald House last year when her year-old daughter, Mavis, had open-heart surgery at Auckland’s Starship Hospital.

“It really alleviates that stress of where you would stay in another city.”

She believed the relationship between the fast-food giant and the charity was misunderstood.

“While people think about McDonald’s as this fast-food chain, the Ronald McDonald house is something way beyond that.”

Source: NZ Herald


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