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Dunedin Hospital has been 'running down to the bone for years' - doctor

Dunedin's current hospital is inadequate and contributes to "unsafe outcomes for patients", so why isn't the new hospital going to be any bigger, a doctor asks. Dunedin Hospital, the site of the new Dunedin Hospital rebuild, has been so stretched that doctors have to treat patients in corridors and work up to 90 hours a week. Dr Janet Rhodes, a doctor at the hospital, expressed her concern over the future capacity of the city's new $1.47 billion hospital, and city councillors wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words: THEY SAVE WE PAY. The council is leading a campaign to halt proposed cuts to the new hospital, which includes a reduction in the number of beds in the inpatients’ building from 410 to 398, a reduce in operating theatres from 28 to 26, and a reduction of MRI scanners to two. Dr Rhodes said the current facility was old and had run at or near capacity in recent years, and highlighted staff shortages. The hospital rebuild was a “colossal amount of money” but the cost to the health system of replicating a similar sized hospital was a cause of concern. Those behind the hospital project will deliver a public update in Dunedin on Tuesday.

Dunedin Hospital has been 'running down to the bone for years' - doctor

Published : 2 months ago by Hamish McNeilly in Health

The site of the new Dunedin Hospital rebuild in Dunedin, where the former Cadbury factory once stood.

Dunedin Hospital has been so stretched doctors have had to treat patients in corridors and work up to 90 hours a week, one doctor has told the city council.

“I don’t actually want more money, I would like to see more of my kids,” Dr Janet Rhodes told a Dunedin City Council meeting via audiovisual link on Monday.

The Dunedin Hospital doctor was expressing her concern over the future capacity of the city’s new $1.47 billion hospital, one of the largest infrastructure builds in the country.

Listening to her were city councillors wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words: THEY SAVE WE PAY. NO DUNEDIN HOSPITAL CUTS.

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The council, led by mayor Jules Radich, is leading a campaign to halt proposed cuts to the new hospital.

Concerns over the project included a reduction in the number of beds in the inpatients’ building from 410 to 398, a reduction in operating theatres from 28 to 26, and a reduction in MRI scanners to two.

Rhodes said the current facility was old and had run at or near capacity in recent years. There was no fat in the system to trim, she said.

“We have been running down to the bone for years now.”

The current hospital was inadequate in terms of size and the new rebuild would have a similar number of beds – a major concern for those set to work in the facility.

In December, it was announced the project’s budget had been increased by $110 million after some $90m worth of savings were identified.

A report from Te Whatu Ora Southern detailed the impact of that cost-cutting in the design, about four years in the planning. “Undoing this in as many months carries significant reputational, operational and clinical risk,” it warned.

Rhodes said the current hospital contributed to “unsafe outcomes for patients”.

People deserved privacy and dignity when they went into hospital, but some patients had to wait up to 18 hours, or were examined standing up in corridors due to the lack of space.

The hospital rebuild was a “colossal amount of money”, but the cost to the health system of replicating a similar sized hospital was a cause of concern, she said.

She also highlighted staff shortages. She routinely worked about 65 hours a week, but could work up to 90 hours.

Another speaker at the public forum, Dr John Chambers, a former member of the now defunct Southern District Health Board, said he expected the $90m in savings to have all but gone by the time the building opened.

He said he was invited to a meeting in February where Whatu Ora Health New Zealand executives said Dunedin patients could get operations in Timaru in future.

Meanwhile, the opening of the new inpatient building had been pushed back 10 months and would now open in 2029. The new outpatient building was expected to open in late 2025.

Chambers said the final make-up of the new hospital was far from a “done deal”, and suggested the building’s final configuration could claw back some of the losses announced last year.

Those behind the hospital project will deliver a public update in Dunedin on Tuesday.

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