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The future of the Dunedin Physio Pool is expected to become less murky when the Southern District Health Board meets next week.
Failure of the pool’s heat exchanger in May this year was one of several issues which caused a ‘‘perfect financial storm’’ for the Otago Therapeutic Pool Trust, and left trustees questioning whether the pool could remain open beyond this year.
The SDHB and the trust have been in discussions about what remedial work is required and the associated financial issues, before the pool can reopen.
The board is expected to discuss the issues at its meeting in Invercargill on Tuesday next week.
Trust secretary-treasurer Neville Martin said the trust had asked the SDHB if it would grant a waiver of part of the contribution towards the cost of running the pool.
‘‘At the moment, the trust pays the SDHB $142,000, and we’re suggesting that the board waive $100,000 of that for a year once the pool reopens.’’
If the board waived the running costs, the trust could continue to run the pool, he said.
The SDHB was also expected to make a decision soon on whether it would help pay for the repair or replacement of the failed pool equipment.
‘‘Whatever the decisions are post-August 3, they will certainly clarify a number of uncertainties at the moment.
‘‘There are a number of big issues that need to be resolved and it’s just a matter of making sure that they are resolved in an orderly manner.
‘‘And we certainly don’t want to reopen the pool when we don’t have the proper equipment and we don’t know whether we can afford to keep going and keep it open.’’
The trust took the pool over in 2014, when the SDHB had wanted to close it, Mr Martin said.
It was on the understanding the trust would be responsible for all operating costs ($142,000 per year), deferred maintenance and replacement of equipment.
A Save the Pool campaign began in 2015 and raised $1 million for pool upgrades and $500,000 for future operating costs and contingencies.
Funding for upgrades was sought from usual funding providers by way of conditional grants and the target was reached.
However, at the end of 2015, the SDHB announced it would not grant a long-term lease of the pool because it might need the space for a new clinical services building. This issue morphed into a new hospital.
As a consequence, the pool upgrade project had to be postponed indefinitely and the conditional offers of grants were recalled.
Recently, the trust entered into a memorandum of understanding with the SDHB, which said the trust would have use of the pool until 2028 if it continued to be responsible for all operating costs, deferred maintenance and replacement of equipment.
Since 2015, the trust had been ‘‘stymied’’ in its plans to upgrade the pool and reduce operating costs, and had to wait for the decision to be made about the location of the new hospital and adhere to the existing cost structure.
This forced the trust to incur annual operating deficits, he said.
To fund these, the trust had to obtain grants and use much of its reserves and the funds given by the public during the Save the Pool campaign.
While the pool was able to remain open, the condition of its facilities had deteriorated, he said.
‘‘In addition, the delay and the uncertainty about whether the pool would be affected by the location of the new hospital, and the inability to carry out upgrades and reduce operating costs, have taken their toll on the trust’s reserves, to the extent that it is questionable whether the pool should remain open beyond this year without intervention from either the SDHB or a major funding boost.’’