My star column last month made the case for an urgent commitment to a full hospital rebuild in Dunedin. I’ve reproduced it in full below.
This year is critical for Dunedin. Overdue decisions about the rebuild of our hospital will have an impact on our city for years to come. It is imperative that the Government commits to getting on with the job before 2017 and does not welch on a full upgrade.
The ability of our city to attract university professors and medical specialists with international reputations depends upon opportunity to exercise their specialties in appropriately modern facilities.
We need top medical staff – to retain the services we have come to expect from the main hospital serving communities in the South. We fought (and won) for Neurosurgery. We can fight and win this time too. Our community pays its fair share of taxes, and Dunedin is the last major metropolitan centre in New Zealand to receive a capital upgrade for its hospital facilities. It is our turn for investment.
But we also need modern first-world health facilities for another reason: important parts of our local economy leverage a strong and successful hospital. Top researchers at the medical school attract important funding to the University. Our city needs that.
The equipment top specialists use and the expertise they bring with them also benefits local businesses. Biotech companies develop solutions in collaboration with our city’s health experts. New Zealand’s health system enjoys a good reputation built over generations. And this reputation is also valuable to those developing biotechnology solutions.
If we want high-paying jobs in our city that serve a growing market worldwide, we could do a lot worse than to provide conditions favourable to development of more health-technology companies.
So why has the Government been reluctant to state the exact nature of the rebuild and a date that the first sod will be turned? It is difficult to know for sure, but slow progress on committing to necessary funding is a factor. Perhaps in part it is also due to a lack of direction from the very top; the Minister has struggled to find a new and willing Board Chair for the under-funded DHB.
The loss of training accreditation for our intensive care unit last year stands as a warning about the consequence of failing to update our buildings. It will be harder to attract specialists until the facilities are upgraded. That has implications for healthcare locally. It also has implications for biotech businesses in our community and the high-paying jobs they generate.
If Dunedin seeks a future with the kind of prosperity it has enjoyed in the past, it needs a strong healthy workforce – and a strong health workforce. A full upgrade of Dunedin Hospital will contribute to both.