David Clark | Issue 2

David Clark | Issue 2

Dunedin Hospital

T he North Dunedin population is younger, poorer and more likely to be single than populations elsewhere in the country. We are an outlier. Many of our statistical quirks derive from having the most intense congregation of tertiary students anywhere in the country.

What is perhaps less well known is that the Dunedin North electorate has the most people employed in the health and social services sector. Why? Because we have a teaching hospital in the electorate.

Our hospital serves a huge geographic area and trains a good proportion of New Zealandís health workforce.

Most students will know someone studying medicine or nursing. Itís fair to say, the quality of their education is at risk. Dunedin is the last major metropolitan centre not to have a hospital upgrade.

Operating theatres leak. Surgery gets postponed after major downpours. The main clinical services building may well contain asbestos. Maintaining buildings already past their use-by date is expected to cost $50 million in coming years.

Students should be preparing themselves in first-world facilities, not training for a shift to the third.

A hospital upgrade is key to unlocking Dunedinís potential. The teaching hospital is critical to the universityís financial health. The universityís financial health is critical to the city. Local biotechnology firms rely on the hospitalís expertise and equipment. When the hospital loses the power to attract specialist teachers, researchers and clinical leaders, the city suffers. There is a domino effect.

That is why I pushed Labour last election to pledge an immediate hospital upgrade.
Money is an issue. The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) has been running deficits since forever. Different things have contributed to financial shortfalls. One major factor is that the health funding formula doesnít work for the South. For example, there appears to be too little funding recognition for nursing, medical and other student training, which brings an extra cost to running the hospital.

Sky-high maintenance bills are one thing. But the situation is made worse still by the fact that outdated buildings were built for outdated practices, which are often more expensive. The DHB does what it can to cut costs ó many staff are paid less here than elsewhere.

It is well and truly time that the government committed capital to a hospital upgrade.
Because of substandard buildings, Dunedin Hospital recently lost its status as an Australasian intensive-care training hospital. The first dominoes are falling.
This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2015.
Posted 6:26pm Sunday 1st March 2015 by David Clark.