Dr David Clark: Rebuilding our hospitals

Opinion 17/10/2019

By Dr David Clark, Minister for Health, Labour MP for Dunedin North.

If there’s one thing I never tire of hearing as Minister of Health, it’s just how great our nurses and doctors are. In the next breath I often hear about the challenging conditions they work in - the nurses are too busy, the hospitals are rundown and out of date.

As a Government we know we’ve inherited some big and longstanding challenges in health, but we are making progress.

Since coming into government we’ve added an extra 1458 more nurses, 582 doctors, 106 midwives and 531 more allied health workers. That’s more than 2,500 additional health workers in our district health boards delivering services and taking care of people when they need it.

Strengthening our health workforce will take time, but it’s the right thing to do – and so is investing in new and upgraded hospital facilities.

Just this past week I was in New Plymouth to announce the go-ahead for a major redevelopment of Taranaki Base Hospital. A new East Wing is being built, with a bigger and better Emergency Department, a new Intensive Care Unit and a rooftop helipad to make patient transfers quicker and safer.

The new building will also house purpose built maternity facilities, including a new delivery suite, a new postnatal ward and neonatal unit.

It’s a $300 million dollar project and when it opens in 2023 (all going to plan) it will mean Taranaki has some of the most modern hospital facilities in the country.

At the same time in Hamilton we’ve approved funding for a new acute mental health facility with extra beds. We know our mental health services have been under really strain for many years, and we’re making record investment in both services and facilities to ensure people can access help and support when they need it.

That’s just some of the work we’ve got underway to rebuild our hospitals. All up we’ve invested $2.45 billion dollars into upgrading and building new hospitals and health facilities in just our first two Budgets – that’s twice as much as the previous government managed in nine years.

We can’t make up for that legacy of underinvestment overnight, but we’re committed to rebuilding and modernising our hospitals. Our health workforce and the patients they care for deserve no less.

Dr David Clark is Minister for Health and Labour MP for Dunedin North.