About two months ago I turned the first sod at a ceremony heralding the start of construction on Churchill Trust's new private hospital and specialist centre.
This project is a massive undertaking and I have been completely blown away by the size of the new building along with the level of sophistication and comfort it will offer upon completion.
I was on site just over two weeks ago and T&D Construction have been powering ahead on the job. This new centre is, like the original building, being developed within the Wairau Hospital grounds with the land leased from the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board.
For years I have been in regular contact with the chief executive of the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board, John Peters, about the role of the private sector in assisting Marlborough get its new hospital.
General manager of the Churchill Trust, Nicki Bennett, and Mark Hawkins, designer and project manager, are now doing a great job along with 10 builders and a number of sub-contractors. This is undoubtedly one of the major developments in Blenheim at the present time.
Shortly after my visit the roof was due to go on, providing an opportunity for the sub-contractors to start on the wiring, plumbing and lining. All the hi-tech installations from broadband to oxygen will have to be installed and before we know it, this new facility will be open for patients.
It's a very timely development as, under the umbrella of the new Wairau Hospital, state of the art facilities like the theatre need maximum use.
The Churchill Trust is looking at something like a 70 per cent increase in capacity once the new centre opens. That's about 2400 patients per year. This is a big increase; there were 1400 paying patients in 2011 - some through ACC and others through health insurance.
There's an upside and no downside with the new development - the more availability in the health sector, the more people who use the services. The people who can pay for their healthcare free up the public health service for those who cannot. And the public health system will always creak under the strain of public expectation; there seems to be infinite demand for a finite resource.
The new Churchill Trust Private Hospital and Specialist Centre will provide us with improved facilities which will add to the attractiveness of Marlborough as a destination of choice for doctors and other medical professionals. Teaming career opportunities with an enviable lifestyle makes a lot of sense and who wouldn't want to see better quality services provided by staff that can be retained.
It's great to see a project like this coming to fruition during a time of inactivity within the building sector. It's no surprise that I have fielded calls from some within the building industry concerned about the downturn, its duration and implications across the community. It's an area of concern that is slowly being addressed.
All going well the keys to the new building will be handed over in April next year and I'm looking forward to more visits to this new development to see how it's progressing.