Doctors still keen to have voices heard

Senior doctors say they will continue to fight for proper services to be provided in the new Dunedin Hospital.

Yesterday the Government once again delayed formal confirmation of the detailed business case for the hospital — the document which sets out what services it will provide — but agreed in principle to back it.

Wrangling between doctors and planners over the size and cost of the hospital has seen the business case, which was due in March, delayed by many months.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton said Dunedin’s doctors wanted to be heard about what the hospital should offer, and still hoped to be heard.

"Our experience in other parts of the country would suggest that is perhaps a naive aspiration," she said.

"It seems very hard for our members’ voices to be properly heard when it comes to long-term building and design decisions.

"It just seems a no brainer to me that the people who are going to be working in those facilities are driving the decisions around them, as long as there is an evidence base to support what they are seeking."

Doctors were realists and knew that there was "not a bottomless money pit", Ms Dalton said.

"They know that they will often have to make decisions in constrained circumstances, but there is constrained and there is not fit for purpose."

National Dunedin list candidate Michael Woodhouse said the Government’s announcement was a "scandalous" delay.

"There is a fight going on between money men and clinicians and they can’t just sit on the sidelines.

"They need to get involved. They need to intervene."

There was no guarantee that Cabinet would sign off the scope and cost of the hospital project and that was not good enough, he said.

Government dithering meant the hospital project continued to be delayed, while the need for it and its expected cost continued to rise, Mr Woodhouse said.

"The risk is that the existing facility with its limited life is going to put the health of southerners at risk.

"The clinical services building, the operating theatres, the pathology labs and the services that support the wider hospital are not going to last much longer.

"They need to get moving."

The Government also said it expected the cost of the new hospital to exceed its $1.4billion budget, but has not said by how much.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that did not amount to the project having a blank cheque.

"Not at all, but there is an expectation out of the work that has been done to date that it (the cost) was likely to exceed that."

"Cabinet was very clear that we didn’t want to see any stalling of the project, which is why that release of $127million funding to enable demolition work to take place."

Dunedin North MP David Clark welcomed the announcement.

"There will be a lot of checks and balances next year, but the funding has been set aside for some of the early work on the site but this is real progress, and delightful after all the delays under the previous government."

Southern District Health Board acting chief executive Lisa Gestro said the in-principle approval was a positive step towards a new hospital.

"The contributions of clinical staff to the project this year are worthy of particular note," she said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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