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The new Dunedin Hospital will still be a two-building development, but the buildings’ size will likely be much smaller than originally planned.
Southern Partnership Group chairman Pete Hodgson confirmed yesterday that planners had considered but rejected scaling the $1.4billion project back to a single building from the two central city buildings comprising 105,000sq m announced last year.
"We tried reconfiguring buildings to see whether or not we could make useful savings by doing this or that and certainly you can, but there are always trade-offs," Mr Hodgson said.
"We did consider one building; we had one building on the Wilson site, we had one building on the Cadbury site, we had all manner of configurations and went back and forth over that ... but we ended up deciding to go with what we started with, which was buildings on the north and south sites."
However, those buildings are likely to be smaller than was hoped.
Total floor area for the hospital buildings had fluctuated between 76,000sq m and 125,000sq m, but would now "be in the order of 89,000sq m," Mr Hodgson said.
"We have had two large balloons and contractions in the size of the building ... and I’m assured that is what happens in a building project of this size."
The Otago Daily Times understands clinicians rebelled at the idea of reducing the new hospital to a single building, and told planners they had no confidence in the design process.
A building of about 89,000sq m would be "not fit for purpose from the day it opens", a clinician said.
This is not the first time senior medical staff have questioned the direction of the keenly anticipated hospital build. In October, speaking under condition of anonymity, several told the ODT they feared some vital services would be cut from the new hospital due to budget constraints.
Mr Hodgson said he was confident the new hospital would be fit for purpose.
Mr Hodgson said he was "quite confident" that the new hospital would have sufficient floor space.
"I have no doubt that we will have ourselves a hospital that will be a thoroughly adequate facility for decades to come."
There would be a "significant" increase from the current number of surgical theatres, and a slight increase in the number of beds, he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic had halted demolition work on the Cadbury site and meant clinicians were unavailable for consultation on hospital planning, Mr Hodgson said.
"There are some good things though, and the delay means planners have been able to put renewed effort into the little building, inspired by the fact the Government is trying to get some projects shovel-ready.
"I don’t imagine it will be ready to go in 6-12 months, but it could easily be part of the economic recovery of this locality."
Lessons learned from the pandemic could also change some decisions which had already been made, Mr Hodgson said.
Nothing can be built before Cabinet considers and signs off on the detailed business case for the new hospital — a document which is unfinished, and was due to go before Cabinet last month.
Mr Hodgson said he hoped Cabinet could deliberate on the plan before the September general election.
"It has to go through a series of consultations and we are on track for them to do that at the moment, but one thing that could knock us would be if Covid-19 took off on us and caused mayhem."
Health Minister David Clark said through a spokesman that he would not comment on the operational decisions concerning the design process for the hospital.