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The vital and much delayed detailed business case for the new Dunedin Hospital should be finalised and sent to Cabinet next week.
The plan, which sets out the future shape of the hospital buildings and what services will be provided, was due to be completed in March.
However, objections by some clinicians to both the proposed size of the $1.2billion-$1.4billion facility and the omission of some departments from the new buildings meant drafting the document became a protracted process.
"It is not done yet but it will be, subject to final sign-off by the Southern Partnership Group at a special meeting next Tuesday," group chairman Pete Hodgson said.
"There are some final edits which still need to be checked."
Until the detailed business case is approved by Cabinet the master programme for the building of the new hospital and its milestone dates cannot be finalised.
Hospital planners have already acknowledged that the delay in the business case has put pressure on plans to open new day surgery facilities in November 2023, new outpatient facilities a year later, and the main inpatient block in 2028, although they have said any potential delays would be by months not years.
Mr Hodgson was confident next week’s meeting should be procedural.
"The plan has come together well, but in something of this complexity there will inevitably always be components that are left outstanding," he said.
"This will be a major milestone for the project and is something we are very much looking forward to delivering."
Speaking earlier this week, Health Minister David Clark said he expected that so long as the hospital’s business case was submitted shortly, Cabinet approval was possible before the September election.
The Cabinet Manual notes there is a convention that governments operate "self-imposed restraint" in significant areas for a three-month period before an election, such as significant appointments and advertising campaigns — a period which starts in four weeks.
Other major decisions with potential political ramifications are often referred to the prime minster or the Cabinet office for further consideration before being progressed or paused until after an election.
"There is a determination on my part and on other ministers’ parts that we continue to make progress on this, albeit that Covid-19 did have an impact," Dr Clark said.
"There is a sense of urgency because this is a project that needs to be done, and delays that happened before we got into government mean that the existing hospital is now more challenging to operate in than you would hope."
Assuming the business case is lodged in time and subsequently approved, hospital planners will then draft an implementation business plan, which will detail how the construction of the hospital will be managed.