Hospital upgrade tipped

Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall
Outgoing Health Minister Tony Ryall dropped his strongest hint yet of when a major upgrade of Dunedin Hospital could be expected.

''I expect Cabinet will consider a business case next year and an announcement would be made then,'' Mr Ryall said last night.

Ministry of Health and Treasury officials had been working with the Southern District Health Board to develop a business case, he said. Upgrading Dunedin Hospital was ''one of our next projects'', following upgrades of hospitals in Canterbury and the West Coast.

Last month, the Otago Daily Times reported on water leaks in the hospital's surgical theatre which had desterilised surgical equipment.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King told the ODT, ''Why has the hospital at our pre-eminent medical school been left to get into this state?''

Is it that the DHB has to cut services until it gets rid of its persistent deficit as [Mr Ryall] is demanding, before the region gets a reprieve?''

Mr Ryall responded: ''Annette King's comments don't deserve a response as she was minister for most of the 2000s when the Government had lots of money but didn't spend anything on Dunedin Hospital.''

He said the Government had already spent $24 million on projects, such as the recently opened neonatal care unit.

Asked if patients or staff had been put at risk due to the state of the hospital, he replied: ''The Government is confident that the hospital staff are providing a quality service and the hospital is safe. We've invested in extra doctors and nurses and the buildings are next.''

An Official Information Act request by Ms King revealed there had been major equipment failures, including power outages to wards and an incident this year of a public ward block lift ''free falling'' five floors.

''The people of Otago, along with hospital staff, have put up with a building that's unfit for purpose for too long.''

SDHB chief executive Carole Heatly said: ''We are working through a process to determine what new facilities are required with the National Health Board and the Capital Investment Committee and are very pleased with how this is progressing.''

Upgrade needed now

I expect Cabinet will consider a business case next year and an announcement would be made then,'' said Mr Ryall.

That's too far ahead. Dunedin hospital needs upgrading now. I've spent hours there supporting a patient and it's a disgrace even to a casual observer.  This patient could hardly bear to sit in the chair next to his bed as it was filthy with torn covering and exposed padding which would harbour bacteria from previous patients. How can staff clean that down? The 'day room' and corridors look equally worn with old furniture and stains and the place is cluttered and crowded and needing a coat of paint. How could that engender confidence in a sick person?

Contrast this with a visit to a private Dunedin Hospital with it's attention to detail that makes one feel safe and secure and that someone cares about the place.

Behind the scenes I leave for the staff to report on - if they are allowed. The staff were marvellous and deserve better working conditions particularly as this is part of a medical school.   While we were there, some essential equipment was out of action for some time and this patient's condition deteriorated while awaiting it's repair. A surgeon moved to a provincial town as he said the "conditions were better than Dunedin". We know the town and
he is correct.

So please Minster of Health, ACT NOW, not 'consider a plan next year'! Easy to say, especially when you may not be there to consider.


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