Unresolved issues mean hospital battle not over, mayor says

Jules Radich. Photo: ODT files
Jules Radich. Photo: ODT files
The Dunedin City Council is unrelenting in its campaign against cuts to the new Dunedin Hospital, Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich saying pressure is needed to prevent Wellington "bean counters" from dominating decision-making.

Unresolved issues, such as the lack of a PET scanner on opening, the loss of two operating theatres, the removal of a link bridge between the inpatient and outpatient buildings, and unresolved mortuary issues remain as issues in the council’s campaign.

Mr Radich yesterday urged people to add their names to the petition against the cuts, which has now collected more than 15,000 signatures.

This follows Health Minister Ayesha Verrall’s announcement on Friday that $10 million would be put back into the project, and there would be no further redesigns of the now $1.68 billion hospital.

In December, the Government announced $110 million in extra funding for the new hospital, along with $90 million worth of cuts, to address a $200 million budget blowout.

In response, the council launched a campaign calling for a return to the clinical services outlined in the business case approved by Cabinet in 2021.

Mr Radich said he was pleased with Friday’s announcement, which showed the Government was listening and the campaign was working.

However, scoring a goal did not mean the game was over.

"It’s vitally important that we keep the pressure on to make sure that the situation is dominated by the health needs of the South, rather than some bean counter sitting in an office in Wellington," he said.

The $10 million includes funding for a third MRI scanner and the fit-out of a collaborative work space that would have been "shelled", or built for future use but not equipped.

The extra funding also includes a $2.5 million upgrade for the shelled space for a PET scanner, to make the space "more ready" to take a scanner should that decision be made, Dr Verrall said.

Investigations into pathology space and the need for psychogeriatric care to take place in the hospital would also be undertaken.

Additionally, Dr Verrall said there would be an extra $97 million in the hospital budget for data and digital infrastructure required to make the new hospital operational.

Mr Radich said issues of concern to the council included the "severely cut" pathology department and the shelling of 12 beds designated to psychogeriatric care, and he was heartened these aspects would be investigated.

"It’s important to demonstrate that we are on the case, that we are very aware of these decisions being made."

There were still many items left to address, and more and more seemed to be cropping up as the project progressed, he said.

Deputy mayor Sophie Barker also voiced concern at unresolved issues.

She had been raising awareness for the campaign at a Wall Street Mall pop-up during the weekend, where people could sign the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) petition against the cuts.

Between in-person and online signatures, more than 15,000 people had now their names to the petition — a figure she hoped would climb to 20,000 by the end of the week.

Town had been busy on Saturday due to an unrelated NZNO rally.

Hundreds of people had signed the hospital petition, and those from outside the city had commented how important the hospital was to the region, she said.

The support of the public reinforced what the council was fighting for.

Councillor Jim O’Malley said it was heartening the Government had restored some services, but it would be the opinion of clinicians that would determine when the council’s campaign was successful.

"In the end we will be looking to the clinical teams for the final assessment of whether all services have been restored."