Few people would be surprised to learn that the Dunedin North electorate has more students per capita than any other electorate in New Zealand. The vitality of the tertiary education sector plays a vital role in the city’s prosperity. But how many people know that it also has the most people employed in the health and social services sector?
The extraordinary bearing of health funding on Dunedin’s economic wellbeing comes as a direct result of hosting a teaching hospital critical to the prospects of its University and Polytechnic, and which also services the healthcare of a population spread over a geographic area the size of Belgium.
Last year, independent economic analysis revealed that the current Government has underfunded health in New Zealand to the tune of $1.7 billion. That underfunding plays out in many ways, but locally it has undoubtedly contributed to stretched staffing, deferred hospital maintenance and with it, the loss of accreditation in Dunedin hospital for medical student training.
Dunedin is the last major metropolitan centre in New Zealand to have its hospital upgraded. Although the current Government acknowledges it is Dunedin’s turn, it seems in no hurry to get on with the upgrade. In the meantime, medical students are training in operating theatres designed 60 years ago, assuming they are specialising in an area that retains accreditation.
Dunedin’s future wealth is dependent in no small way upon a hospital rebuild. Biotech companies and others draw upon the expertise available in a top-notch teaching hospital. The rebuild should be beyond party politics, yet the constant stalling reeks of a Government determined to push financial commitments and responsibility to a future regime. To encourage their efforts along, I have launched a petition to urge the Government to begin construction on Dunedin Hospital before the next election. Whether you are a health science student, or someone who just cares about Dunedin’s future, I encourage you to drop into my Albany Street office to sign it.
Dunedin is a city that is affected more than others by the colour of the Government it elects. This is because it is an outlier in so many respects. Labour believes in the opportunities presented by having a well-educated population that can access high quality public healthcare. Labour believes in the opportunities a city of education like Dunedin represents.