Dunedin Hospital celebrates 150 years amid strife

Former staff, stakeholders, and residents of Dunedin Hospital gathered last week to celebrate 150 years at its Great King Street location. The hospital chapel played host to a modest ceremony as speakers told tales of times past, and look hopefully forward to a continuing future of medical prestige. 

The Hospital was moved in 1867 after being founded on a different site in 1851, with the medical school being established nine years later. 

Several years of underfunding has led to a series of complaints from clients and local body politicians in regards to a number of issues, including leaky operating theatres and lacklustre food. The decision to end on-site food production in favour of pre-made meals sparked a 200-person protest in April, and has continued on social media where angry patients have posted a series of photos of unappetising meals. Southern DHB Commissioner Kathy Grant however pointed out that complaints over food have been a constant within the hospital stretching back as far as the 1870s, when an angry patient called their soup “water flavoured with flour and barley”. 

The government announced a major investment package to rebuild the hospital at Budget 2016, which Prime Minister John Key last week reiterated his absolute intention to follow through on, according to DCC Mayoral Candidate Conrad Stedman, who posed the question while at a National Party fundraiser at Balmacewen golf club. According to Stedman, Key said “the hospital will be getting built or redone. We just need to get the designers to sort out what we’ve got to do and it will be done”. 

The Otago Daily Times recently reported on a letter written by a Dunedin woman who had visited the ED area, and complained of minimal staffing and long wait times, with a number of staff expressing concern that the hospital was under pressure, particularly in the height of winter flu season. Government reporting of standard wait times however found the hospital to be largely holding steady, with 93 percent being treated or transferred within six hours.

It’s clear that the Dunedin Hospital is imperfect, and in dire need of upgrade and investment, but at its core it remains strong, with a dedicated staff and a united community behind it, ensuring its survival for another 150 years at least.  

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2016.
Posted 10:10am Sunday 4th September 2016 by Joe Higham.