Criticism over city hospital role

Auckland District Health Board's chief medical officer has been named as the final member of the politically appointed group guiding the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment.

Although called the ''Southern Partnership Group'', four of its five members are in the North Island - three of them in Auckland.

Dr Margaret Wilsher's appointment was announced by Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman in a press release yesterday.

The other doctor in the group, surgeon Andrew Connolly, is also from Auckland, and the senior doctors' union yesterday criticised the lack of a southern doctor in the group.

Executive director Ian Powell said a local doctor who knew the dynamics of the area should be included.

''[Local doctors] are the people who know what works best, the connection between different services.''

Mr Powell said Dr Wilsher was respected and would play a constructive role, but the lack of local input was a concern.

Dr Wilsher joins Andrew Blair (chairman), of Hawke's Bay, Mr Connolly, of Auckland, Tony Lanigan, of Auckland, and Richard Thomson, of Dunedin.

Although a replacement of the clinical services building, costing up to $300 million, is expected, nothing has been confirmed, and Dr Coleman's press release refers to the ''redevelopment of Dunedin Hospital''.

The project is overdue and a business case was supposed to go to Cabinet this year, but deadlines have been pushed back, and the project has more bureaucratic hurdles than expected.

A preliminary business case called a strategic assessment will go to the Cabinet late next year.

''The Southern Partnership Group will provide governance oversight of the redevelopment process, working closely with the DHB and commissioner.''

''To be done well, hospital redevelopments take time - particularly in the early stages, where considerable work is needed to define how services will work in the future and how best to configure them,'' Dr Coleman's press release said.

The rebuild had been estimated to take seven to 10 years, but a spokeswoman yesterday said Dr Coleman expected the project to happen more quickly.

Speaking to senior doctors at their conference in Wellington last month, Dr Coleman admitted the redevelopment was ''overdue'', his speech notes show.

''My decision to appoint a commissioner [at Southern DHB] was based on the need to deal with the clearly deteriorating financial issues, and to move the DHB over time to where we can plan for their overdue hospital rebuild,'' the speech notes say.

On the group's behalf, the Ministry of Health issued a request for proposal document last month for planning work.

The document said the hospital upgrade was ''being used as an opportunity'' to change how health services are delivered in the South, but just what that means remains unclear.

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