National's hospital pledge 'not enough'

A $30 million plan to bring back beds, theatres and a PET scanner cut from the new Dunedin hospital does not go far enough, medical representatives say.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon yesterday pledged to reverse some of the contentious cuts to the hospital design if National was elected to govern later this year.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) welcomed the news, but said it wanted more changes, while the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) continued to call for a total return to the earlier plan.

Mr Luxon said the new hospital was a critical piece of infrastructure for the region.

"We’re going to build this hospital back to the specification that was originally intended, in terms of giving us the capacity we need, and that we will need for the future with the generations to come."

This would mean the reinstatement of 23 inpatient beds, two operating theatres, and a PET scanner.

National leader Christopher Luxon announces plans for a $30 million funding increase to the new...
National leader Christopher Luxon announces plans for a $30 million funding increase to the new Dunedin hospital yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Mr Luxon said the idea of a world-class hospital had been instigated by National, but the Government of the past six years had resulted in "a pile of rubble" as it had not got on with the task.

Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse said plans had previously been cut back from about 480 beds.

The number of beds in the detailed business case in 2021 had a "bare minimum" of 421.

Further cuts to that number, and to operating theatres and radiology, were not acceptable.

The party was also committed to building the hospital on time, he said.

"As I’ve said many, many times, the biggest cost pressure on this project is delay."

Yesterday’s pledge follows the Government’s announcement last December of $90 million worth of design cutbacks, along with $110 million in extra funding, to address a $200 million budget blowout.

Following a backlash from those who feared the facility would no longer be fit for purpose — including the ASMS and NZNO — the Government back-pedalled to reinstate $10 million to the project, putting the price tag at $1.68 billion.

The outpatient building is set to open in late 2025, but the redesign of the inpatient building caused by the cuts has pushed its expected opening date back to 2029, a delay of nearly a year.

The new hospital complex also appears to have lost the interprofessional learning centre (ILC), a medical training building which was recently put on hold indefinitely due to spiralling costs, although $17 million remains allocated to this in the project budget.

National did not commit to reversing all of the cuts to the new hospital complex yesterday.

Two notable omissions not reinstated in National’s promised funding were the planned staff-focused pavilion building and the ILC.

National health spokesman Dr Shane Reti said yesterday the party was "committed to the interprofessional learning centre over time" but it was not the focus of the announcement.

ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton said more funding for the project was welcome, and was what the organisation would like to see from any government.

She was also pleased that the debate around health provision generally was increasing in the lead-up to the election.

However, ASMS wanted the new hospital to be built as close as possible to the detailed business case.

The NZNO is running a petition calling for the new hospital to be built as outlined in the detailed business case.

Chief executive Paul Goulter said the campaign would continue, as the petition did not seek a partial response.

"We believe that the only fair and just thing to do would be to reinstate everything being asked for in our petition."

A Dunedin Hospital nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were sceptical the changes would occur as promised.