New hospital plan gets mixed reaction


There has been a mixed reaction to Wanaka property investment company Roa’s announcement on Wednesday it would build a $300 million 70-bed hospital for Wanaka.

A wide range of community leaders contacted by the Otago Daily Times have welcomed more health infrastructure and described it as "important".

But they want more support and leadership from the government and its health funding agency to increase equitable public health services and build a new hospital that is not just for people who can afford to pay for private healthcare.

The closest hospital to Wanaka is the community-owned Dunstan Hospital, which is a 90-minute drive away in Clyde.

Dunstan Hospital (Central Otago Health Services Ltd) chief executive Hayley Anderson said she could not comment on how a Wanaka hospital might affect Dunstan.

"The first we knew of this development was last evening ... There is a pressing need for after-hours and overnight services, [and we are] not sure how this will meet that need as we don’t have the information," she said.

A private hospital would not meet the needs of the community and a public interface was needed, she said.

The challenging part of a hospital was the operational component, having adequately skilled clinicians and support staff and associated infrastructure, Ms Anderson said.

"No ICU back-up means low-complexity surgery will be offered," she said.

An artist’s impression of the new $300 million state-of-the-art hospital to be built at Three...
An artist’s impression of the new $300 million state-of-the-art hospital to be built at Three Parks, in Wānaka. Photo: supplied

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Queenstown Lakes Mayor Glyn Lewers both said a "piecemeal approach" to health developments carried risks for the region.

Mr Cadogan said he wanted the government to "show leadership", while Mr Lewers called for Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora (HNZ) to "provide a clear road map" to achieving better access to regional health services.

Mr Cadogan has previously advocated for a centralised, regional hospital in Cromwell.

Roa’s announcement was "great news for Wanaka but I see it posing risk long-term not just for Central Otago but for the broader Inland Otago region", Mr Cadogan said.

"A centralised hospital that meets the needs of the whole area, bringing both public and private health providers together, is the best way forward, rather than a piecemeal approach across the area that creates pockets of care that may well only be there for those that can afford it, leaving those that can’t continuing to have to travel to Dunedin or Invercargill for the care they need and deserve

"The time has come for the government to show leadership in making sure that the solution to our hospital needs is for everyone and located in the most practical place," he said.

Mr Lewers welcomed healthcare investment and "access to effective services for everyone".

His high-growth district needed a holistic approach and forward planning to meet the needs of increasing resident and visitor populations, he said.

"It’s disappointing that, to date, Te Whatu Ora has not provided a clear road map to achieve this. I hope that this proposal represents an opportunity for local mayors, MPs and potential private individuals to work constructively with Te Whatu Ora in order to avoid a piecemeal approach to the increasingly urgent issue of healthcare provision in the Queenstown Lakes district and wider region. I will certainly continue advocating for that on behalf of the community.”

Wanaka’s Health Action Group emerged after a public health forum in March, which was attended by 400 people and HNZ officials.

Spokeswoman Monique Mayze said yesterday the group welcomed investment in healthcare infrastructure "but as the focus of our group is on equitable access for all, we will be advocating for public investment in this proposal".

There were still too many unknowns and the group would focus on advocating to HNZ for equitable and better access, she said. "It can’t only be for people who can afford to pay for it."

Roa chief executive Mike Saegers announced on Wednesday the hospital would be built with private funding, and he hoped for a fast-track consent from the government.

Any decision on a public services model was for HNZ, he said.