Doubts about hospital reiterated

Demolition work continues at the site of the new Dunedin Hospital yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Demolition work continues at the site of the new Dunedin Hospital yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Delays and cost overruns on the new Dunedin Hospital project raise doubts whether the project will be completed to the size and scope planned, National Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse says.

A Cabinet paper released to the Otago Daily Times this week confirmed the project would overrun its planned $1.4billion budget, and warned difficulties finding construction workers could result in the second of two planned buildings opening later than planned.

Earlier this year Mr Woodhouse, a former hospital manager, challenged planners over the actual square metre size of the new hospital.

Planning documents later released to the ODT show it was proposed the hospital be scaled back to just a single building, which was rejected by then health minister David Clark and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

The difficulties facing the project which were revealed in the Cabinet paper, and Treasury’s opposition to the Government last month giving in-principle support to the hospital’s still uncompleted detailed business case, again begged the question what size hospital Dunedin would have, Mr Woodhouse said.

"They are either committed to that or they are not, and if they are not they should be honest with the public.

"If they are committed to it they should tell Treasury to pull their head in, tell the Ministry of Health to give Treasury the information that they need to get on and cost the project, and that is what should have happened three years ago.

"The fact we are still spinning the wheels on this suggests to me that Treasury is still worried about whether or not Dunedin needs a hospital of the scale that has been designed."

Mr Woodhouse has previously suggested the Ministry of Health and Treasury have been at loggerheads about whether the Dunedin Hospital project should proceed as planned, and he quizzed the Southern District Health Board at the health select committee earlier this year on that point.

"I hate to be right but I told you so.

"I have been saying this for months that Treasury and the ministry are continuing to argue about the scope and scale of the project," he said yesterday.

"The fact that it is now three and a-half years since the indicative business case was approved ... shows that insufficient progress has been made and serious questions need to be asked about the commitment of this Government to this project."

Millions of dollars had already been spent on a project which was yet to have demolition consent, let alone construction consent, Mr Woodhouse said.

He expected further planning delays.

In the Cabinet paper, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was critical the project progressed without delay.

The belated detailed business case for the hospital project is now due to be received by the Government in February — almost a year overdue.

The implementation business case for the ambulatory building is due by May 2021, and that for the inpatients building in November 2021.

The latter building is due to be completed by 2028, but Mr Hipkins warned difficulties sourcing workers meant that deadline was in danger of being missed.

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