Plans to upgrade hospital

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 26/12/2012

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Palmerston North Hospital's emergency facilities have been earmarked for almost $27 million in upgrades in a proposal designed to prepare the region for a disaster on the scale of the Christchurch earthquake.

The MidCentral District Health Board ended the financial year in surplus and has some ambitious visions for its $40m in reserve.

"We are in a position as a DHB to sit back and make some strong decisions on how to invest seriously to get the best outcomes for our population," planning and support executive project manager Joy Christison said.

Preparing for civil emergency, attracting more medical professionals to the region, and improved information sharing services were atop the wish list for about 1000 MidCentral staff and patients who took part in focus groups to plan future investments for the region.

A disaster-ready hospital and talks with Otago University to set up a provincial medical school in Palmerston North were two proposals on the cards, set to be shortlisted for capital spending in January.

The proposal to overhaul Palmerston North Hospital's critical care department had drawn strong support, Ms Christison said.

"Ideally, looking forward into a modern world - and one where we are much more aware, post the Christchurch earthquake - it would be ideal to have operating theatres, the intensive care units, the high dependency unit and emergency department all located next to each other and ideally on the ground floor. At the moment we don't have that," Ms Christison said.

"With the benefit of hindsight, looking at the Christchurch earthquake now, it would make sense if we look to expand the footprint of that unit and [its] services."

Because the amount of money to execute the plan is forecast to be more than $25m in capital expenditure, approval from the Ministry of Health would be required therefore works would be unlikely to start before 2014, Ms Christison said.

The upgrade would cost an estimated $26.7m in total, and with an estimated 15,000 patients through its doors annually, the Emergency Department would need to double in size to meet current Australasian standards. A new build is also a possibility.

The report also proposes a refit of the Ambulatory Care centre which hosts services such as neurology and surgery at a cost of over $12m.

MidCentral's surpluses are predicted to grow to as much as $80m within the next three years.

Other proposals on the table included an upgrade in information and communication technology throughout the district, meaning information sharing across hospitals, general practices, pharmacies and mental health services would be integrated and "ICT architects" funded to have technical experts on hand to assist medical professionals.

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Staff workload was a key theme of the feedback, with concerns raised about staffing shortages.

Other services called for included a community child health centre and a primary birthing unit to be based in Palmerston North. A number of MidCentral's focus group participants hoped for a mobile primary health care unit to visit aged care facilities or an "elder one-stop shop," as well as an advanced palliative care centre and a community based mental health respite service.

An upgrade of the mortuary facility is already underway and due for completion in June next year.

- Manawatu Standard

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