'Dishonest': Health minister slammed over Dunedin hospital

Health Minister and former doctor Shane Reti is being questioned by physicians about his "short...
Health Minister Shane Reti. Photo: RNZ
Health Minister Shane Reti has been accused of dishonesty after refusing to confirm a $30 million boost for the new Dunedin hospital will go ahead as promised.

Labour MP Ingrid Leary said yesterday Dr Reti was trying to backtrack on the pledge made by National last July.

"It’s dishonest, frankly, to campaign on election promises and then turn around and say that business cases must be done and meetings must be held," she said.

This follows Dr Reti’s comments to the Otago Daily Times on Monday that the government was committed to the hospital and the need for better health service facilities.

However, he did not answer questioning on whether the government would provide the funds it previously announced would be used to reinstate 23 inpatient beds, two operating theatres and the country’s first publicly owned PET scanner.

The boost was aimed at reversing some of the controversial $80m worth of design cutbacks made by the Labour government.

Dr Reti also did not state whether the government would provide a separate building for pathology along the lines of that promised by Labour last September.

This followed a review which found the laboratory area allowed for in the new hospital plans — cut from 1300sq m to 350sq m — would not be enough.

"I understand this will require a separate business case to be prepared before my office considers next steps," Dr Reti said.

Ms Leary said Dr Reti urgently needed to come to Dunedin to meet local health advocates and medical professional bodies.

Immediate past-president of the New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science Terry Taylor also criticised Dr Reti’s response.

The fight continued for a new pathology building that would meet the basic needs of the hospital, he said.

Having to push for essential facilities was "beyond belief".

"I have already met with the ministerial appointed commissioner and he is coming to Dunedin late February to look at hospital rebuild and our current pathology lab," Mr Taylor said.

The current facility would be inadequate for use into the future, he said.

Dr Reti did not respond to the criticism yesterday.

However, a spokesman for the minister said he was looking forward to visiting Dunedin once he had been briefed on the new hospital.