Staff urge SDHB to revisit Christian chapel idea

Staff feel the Southern District Health Board’s rejection of a Christian chapel in the new Dunedin hospital is flawed and the issue should be reconsidered.

Earlier this month, the SDHB rejected calls for a separate Christian chapel in the new hospital to be built alongside a multi-faith prayer room.

Board members cited a lack of space and a belief a non-denominational room would be practical and inclusive as reasons for making that decision — one which flew in the face of a petition from 53 people, mostly local Christian leaders.

The Otago Daily Times has been anonymously sent a copy of an internal letter from a member of the staff group set up to be consulted on spiritual facilities in the new hospital, to senior figures in the rebuild project.

The letter said the staff group had spent three years talking with patients, faith communities, interfaith groups and colleagues.

"There was a general agreement that the spirituality centre needs to be welcoming to all people, including those with no affiliation to religion as well as those who identify themselves with a religion (the vast majority of the latter group being Christians)," the letter said.

"As such our functional brief includes a multi faith space, a Christian chapel, and a prayer room."

News the board was considering the proposal had come "out of the blue" and the staff were not spoken to in that process despite having asked to be involved.

"We were informed of the outcome of the discussion at the board meeting through the ODT.

"I would therefore like to raise my concerns about the process, which I believe was flawed and should have had broader engagement."

The letter called for the decision to be reopened for further submissions "to ensure we have a spirituality centre which is meaningful and fit for purpose for all patients and staff".

The letter was addressed to SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming, hospital development project director Hamish Brown, clinical leadership group head John Adams, and former SDHB chairman Dave Cull.

Mr Fleming said the board had consulted with staff for three years about faith facilities in the new hospital.

While those discussions had been "consistently respectful and thoughtful", consensus had seemed unlikely, hence why the SDHB executive leadership team, and then the board, had endorsed a single multi-faith facility.

The latest functional design brief for the space said discussions continued about how to make it relevant to people who had religious affiliation, the majority being Christian, as well as those who did not, he said.


Don't forget us Pastafarians....



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