Future of Wakari unclear

Southern DHB chief executive Chris Flemming. Photo: ODT files
Southern DHB chief executive Chris Flemming. Photo: ODT files
The future of the partly outdated and dilapidated Wakari Hospital complex is uncertain, as the Southern District Health Board considers moving services away from the facility and alongside the new Dunedin Hospital.

The SDHB and Ministry of Health have always hoped to create a "health precinct" on the land surrounding the $1.4billion-plus hospital project, and health board chief executive Chris Fleming has now released some details of what that might entail.

Critically, Mr Fleming said design of the precinct plan included the future of SDHB facilities at Wakari.

The hill suburbs hospital is notably home to the SDHB’s main mental health facilities, but is also used by several other services and is where the SDHB management is based.

A hodgepodge of several buildings, some of which were not designed with any medical purpose in mind, Wakari has long been criticised as being unsafe and, apart from some of the newer wards, not fit for purpose.

A Ministry of Health audit of the country’s hospital buildings last year called Wakari one of the worst-designed mental health facilities in New Zealand, and an SDHB-commissioned report on it a year earlier found many buildings were unfit for purpose and had serious maintenance issues.

The board is well aware of the shortcomings of the complex, and had been planning to submit a business case to the Government for an upgrade or replacement of it.

Mr Fleming, who last September said the SDHB would be "putting good money after bad" if it refurbished Wakari, said last week the board was looking at the precinct plan now as architects building the new hospital needed some idea of what surrounding amenities might be required.

"Clearly, there is the need for mental health facilities to be addressed with greater urgency, and this is being explored as part of a [SDHB] mental health review currently under way," Mr Fleming said.

When planning for the new hospital began, staff and management went through a process deciding what services were "in scope" and would be inside the new hospital building, and what services now in the hospital would be out of scope in the new building.

Those excluded services include data storage, the dialysis service, orthotics, fertility services, southern blood and cancer service and the sexual health service.

Such services would be included in the precinct, Mr Fleming said.

"It is the DHB’s responsibility to plan for these services," he said.

"However, this may require work with Ministry of Health around additional capital support and infrastructure expertise."

It is possible the SDHB might be able to access funding the Government set aside in its last term for capital works associated with implementing the recommendations of its mental health inquiry.

Mr Fleming said planning for the health precinct was nearing the end of phase 1, a stocktake of the SDHB’s existing facilities, their current physical state and fitness for reuse.

"After the stocktake is complete we will be working with internal and external stakeholders around what the health precinct could look like."

The new hospital is scheduled for completion in 2030, and planning for the health precinct had been as far ahead as 2050, Mr Fleming said.,

"The benefits of this are a greater degree of flexibility around consultation with stakeholders and the prioritisation of long-term outcomes for a meaningful repositioning and relocation of health services in Dunedin."



It baffles me that something as major as this is still being "considered" by the powers that be. We have known about intentions for a new hospital precinct in the central city for years. Demolition of the site is well underway. And yet they are still wondering about fundamental things like the future of Wakari!? No wonder they've been criticised for "faffing about"!!

Downsizing again? Given the inadequate size of the 'new' hospital they should be looking at using a completely redeveloped Wakari site for all of the departments that won't fit in the new build, particularly psychiatry and management.

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