National committed to hospital clinical spaces

Last week, I was proud to stand beside National leader Christopher Luxon and health spokesman Dr Shane Reti to announce that, if elected in October, a National Government will ensure that the new Dunedin Hospital will open with all the clinical spaces committed to in the detailed business case, including the spaces that Labour said it would cut.

Six long years after the previous National Government committed to a total rebuild, progress has been painfully slow.

Constituents I hear from say they thought the project would be far further along than it is. They’re right, it should be.

Worse than that, having taken four years to approve the detailed business case with the bare minimum required to meet the needs of the South, Labour took 23 beds, two operating theatres and vital radiology services away.

That would have meant the new hospital would open with just one more main operating theatre and three fewer medical/surgical ward beds than we currently have.

Hardly the hospital fit for the future that Labour promised.

This was unacceptable to me and to National, and we commit to having all those spaces fitted out from day one. More than that, we will fit out two more operating theatres than the business case indicated.

Some have asked why National won’t put back all the space taken out by Labour. The simple answer is time. Labour took too long to make these changes and has added at least a year to the expected opening date.

The clinical space can be restored without delaying the project. And it’s in the clinical space that the outstanding care we benefit from is provided.

The building is important, but it’s people that provide the care.

National has already announced it will train an extra 220 doctors a year, bond nurses and midwives to stay in New Zealand and free up immigration settings, helping to ensure the healthcare workers needed to staff Dunedin Hospital, and others, will be available.

National knows how to get things done, and it is past time to accelerate and properly build our painfully slow-moving hospital project.