Better Health South - Board Update August 2021

Pete Hodgson, Chair
Pete Hodgson, Chair

In recent years the New Dunedin Hospital has been in the spotlight for the work happening there to improve facilities and services for the whole district.

But it’s not alone. We are also looking at facilities across the district and today I want to focus on Southland.

When Southland Hospital opened about 15 years ago, it was way better than what existed before and pretty damn shiny. But it’s now time to consider how it will enter its next decade or two. The hospital is already showing its age in a few areas, capacity issues have emerged, and those shortcomings are now being felt by patients and clinicians alike.

We often point out that a hospital is not by itself a health system, and this is as true in Southland as everywhere else. We need to think about the rest of the region’s health services – our general practices, our aged care services, mental health services, disability services and more. And there are always ‘issues of the day’; like the lack of universally free GP treatment for under 14 year-olds, the large number of ED presentations, the apparent under-enrolment of Māori in primary care or the shortfall of physiotherapists.

So, the Southern District Health Board has been busy sorting through these issues. We want to fix the urgent stuff soon and the strategic stuff later. We want to lay a pathway, so that when DHBs cease to exist next June the new national health system can pick up our plans and progress them, knowing that they have been prioritised thoughtfully.

Our immediate steps have been to increase nursing staff to reopen 12 beds in the wards and add more nurses into the Emergency Department.

WellSouth has opened an after hours emergency centre, to provide more options for people needing urgent GP care.

We are also about to create a space for those on dialysis to receive care at the hospital.

Longer term, we are planning for a new operating theatre, bringing the total theatres to five at Southland Hospital. We are also looking at options to extend the Emergency Department.

I wish to record my thanks to clinicians and community representatives who have contributed thus far in these initiatives, and to Southland’s elected DHB members, who have single-mindedly driven all the components of this comprehensive initiative to the point where full Board approval was given earlier this month.

We will continue to update you as these plans progress.


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