Hospital welcomed, funding questioned

Dr Andrew McLeod - Wanaka Medical Centre

A Wanaka GP is grateful that members of Dunedin Hospital’s rebuild team have considered the needs of rural communities in its plans.

Dr Andrew McLeod told NZ Doctor that it was gratifying to see members of the rebuild team visit some rural areas, including Wanaka, to see what regions further from the city require hospital services.

Dr McLeod also expressed concern over the potential private funding model for the new hospital, set to cost more than $1 billion, saying that he was suspicious about private funding for one of the country’s largest public hospitals.

“I’m suspicious about privatisation. It runs the risk of going down the road of privately-owned prisons, which aren’t a terribly successful model if you look around the rest of the world,” Dr McLeod told the medical news publication.

Dr McLeod’s concerns were echoed by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director, Ian Powell, who said the new public hospital needed to be fully funded by the government.

“If the Government does go down this track in Dunedin, then it would essentially be handing over the keys for one of the country’s biggest public hospitals to private investors to maximise extracting profits for themselves,” Mr Powell said.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Prime Minister Bill English visited Dunedin Hospital to announce the $1.2 to $1.4 billion rebuild, which will be the largest of its type in New Zealand’s history, on Saturday August 19.

Dr Coleman said that due to the size of the project all funding options would be considered, including a private public partnership model.

Southern DHB Commissioner Kathy Grant said the scale of the investment was a great leap forward for healthcare in the south.

“We are extremely excited about this huge investment in health infrastructure in our district. It goes beyond what we initially imagined. We now have the opportunity to build the hospital our patients and staff deserve, remembering that this is not just for Dunedin but the whole Southern district and the specialist services we deliver,” Mrs Grant said.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said she felt very positive about the Government’s announcement and what it meant for Central Otago people.

"For families, the elderly, those needing emergency care, or treatment for cancer, this new hospital and its state-of-the-art facilities will make a world of difference for this area," Mrs Dean said.

"I believe this investment shows that the Government values the contribution of the people of this area and that it's not just Auckland that receives funding for the big ticket items. This hospital will take the people of the region into the future with a facility designed to provide the best in healthcare.”

The Ministry of Health is now working to secure an appropriate site for the new hospital, which is due to open in seven to ten years.

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