The Trust has its origins in the Otago Hospital Board, which for many years administered a variety of health-specific and general purpose funds from donations, bequests, and endowments. The Area Health Boards Act 1983 meant these trust funds were then vested in the Otago Area Health Board, to be distributed subject to their previously attached purposes and conditions. However, the next system reform, from area health boards to crown health enterprises, raised significant administrative issues since they were now considered limited liability companies under the Companies Act.
While the Health Reforms (Transitional Provisions) Act 1993 still meant the Trust funds were to be administered subject to their previously attached purposes, Otago Crown Health Enterprise Limited deemed it more appropriate that the trust funds be divorced from the trading enterprise, and governed independently through an incorporated charitable trust.
In 1994, The Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust was incorporated as a charitable body under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, and the transfer of various funds held by the Otago Area Health Board was completed. Although its origins were from within the Otago Area Health Board (now the Southern District Health Board), the Trust is a separate and independent legal entity with its own formal board.
The major objectives of the Trust are defined in the Trust Deed and include giving support to health services, disability support services, community organisations, research and education that will improve the health and well-being of the communities the Trust serves. Trust funds remain for the benefit of the communities within the original geographic boundaries of the Otago Area Health Board. A map of the geographic area can be found here.
The present trustees are Mr. Paul Moodie (Chairman), Mrs. Mary Flannery, Mr. Richard Thomson and Dr. Gil Barbezat.
The Trust has an ongoing relationship with Ignite Consultants, a student-run non-for-profit that provides business advice and strategic planning to charities in Dunedin. The Ignite Board internship programme was pioneered by the Trust in 2014, enabling Ignite alumni to engage further with the non-for-profit sector. Board interns are provided with the opportunity to gain insight into board governance and decision-making over a one year period, as well as offering a student's perspective on matters before the Trust. The programme has been incredibly successful so far.