Lack of pushback on hospital blasted

Michael Woodhouse. Photo: ODT files
Michael Woodhouse. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin's Labour MPs have been accused of a "deafening silence" in their lack of pushback against $90 million worth of design cuts to the city’s new hospital.

National Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse said Dunedin MP Dr David Clark and Taieri MP Ingrid Leary were putting loyalty to the Labour Party ahead of loyalty to the communities they represented.

Both have defended Labour as the champion of the new hospital and echoing previous comments by Health Minister Andrew Little that "there are no cuts".

Last month, the Government approved $110 million in additional funding to address a $200 million budget blow-out on the project, intended to future-proof health care in the South.

However, the remaining $90 million would be saved by making "design changes" to what is now a $1.58 billion project.

The staff-focused pavilion building and at least 450 non-clinical spaces have been dropped from the design.

Other changes include a reduction in hospital beds to 398, 12 fewer than planned, and fewer operating theatres — 26 rather than 28.

When the hospital opens, likely in 2029, it will have two MRI scanners rather than three, and no PET CT scanner.

However, shell space will be included in the build so lost amenities can be added in future.

Mr Woodhouse said members of the public from both Dunedin and the wider southern area had expressed their concern to him about the changes.

Cuts to capacity would impact services at the new facility, and Labour MPs should have been more vocal since they were proposed last year, he said.

"There has been a deafening silence from Labour MPs that I think speaks volumes."

Dr Clark and Ms Leary seemed ambivalent about the issue, prioritising party loyalty, he said.

"The fact that they’re in the party does not reduce their obligation to serve this community by ensuring we get the hospital that was promised."

Dr Clark said he was pleased with the Labour Government’s commitment to the new hospital, contrasting this to "the prior Government’s failure to progress the project, despite significant capacity constraints and leaking operating theatres".

As the former health minister who secured funding for the project, he would be keeping in contact with Mr Little as the build continued, he said.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times Mr Little previously denied that the changes to the new hospital constitute cuts, emphasising its increased capacity compared with the current hospital.

Mr Clark reiterated this, saying the increase would in some cases be significant — for example, there would be 26 operating theatres, up from 16.

Ms Leary said claims of a design cutback were "disingenuous" when all 410 beds would ultimately be phased in.

Otago and Southland Labour MPs met Mr Little last week and discussed the hospital.

She had raised constituent queries and was reassured the revised plan had been signed off by relevant parties.

"The decisions on the new Dunedin hospital are the practical decisions that have to be made when there is such huge demand after years of neglect."

Mr Woodhouse was playing politics, she said.

"It’s very ironic given his Government didn’t even attempt to get a new hospital for Dunedin."