Govt, Dunedin council set to meet over proposed cuts to new hospital

Wed, Feb 1

She's only been in the job for a day, but newly appointed Health Minister Ayesha Verrall is already making plans to meet with disgruntled Dunedin City councillors.

It comes after the council unanimously agreed to fund a public campaign to protest design changes to the city's new hospital.

Verrall said the Government's committed to building the hospital, but is concerned communication with the community hasn't been clear.

"I'll be in touch with members of the council...make sure they get the information they need," she said.

The Government announced $110m in additional funding for the $1.5b project in December, but there's still a shortfall of $90m, which has been made up through design changes.

Cabinet signed off on a final detailed business case in 2021, but plans were dramatically changed just before Christmas to manage budget pressures due to rising construction costs and delays.

That business case included plans for 421 beds.

That number has been cut to 398 — 23 fewer than originally planned, which is the equivalent of a whole ward.

There will also be two fewer operating theatres and the region's first PET scanner will not be operating upon opening.

More than 450 non-clinical workspaces have also been lost in the revised design.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said it's "crazy" to throw the four years of work it took to reach the final detailed business case out the window.

"Whilst they are achieving a 5.5% saving in cost, it will take at least a year to redesign and with 7% inflation, it seems highly questionable that any money will be saved."

Councillors met yesterday to prepare to push back on the Government's decision.

"We need to fight like hell for our community, for our people, for our city and for the wider region," councillor Christine Garey said.

And they're doing just that — the council has agreed to spend $130,000 on a public campaign to fight the changes.

"This is going to unite this council and we're going to unite this city and we're going to fight this down the streets if we have to," Andrew Whiley said.

Councillor Carmen Houlahan feels let down by local Labour MP's who she said haven't made any strong stances against the cuts.

"I urge them to reconsider that and fight for the city, obviously there's a time to support your party but I'm saying it's not now, right now we want your support for our city and for the best hospital we can get," Houlahan said.

But Dunedin MP David Clark disagrees.

"As the local Member of Parliament who originally fought for this Government to build a new state of the art hospital in Dunedin, I refute any suggestion we are not fighting for the best possible outcome for the region," he said.

Clark says he appreciates and welcomes growing interest in the new Dunedin Hospital from the Dunedin City Council and is "glad to see them join the fight".

Councillors today are feeling hopeful Verrall will make amends, saying her extensive medical background is a huge advantage.

"I grew up in Otago, Southland, and that was a hospital I trained at and I want to see it there serving the community really well in the future," Verrall said.

Verrall will be reaching out to the council soon to organise a meeting.


More Stories