Hospital rebuild crisis warning

17:00, May 30 2014

Christchurch Hospital is gearing up for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment it admits will heighten risks for patients and be a ‘‘clinical team’s "worst nightmare’’.

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) chief executive David Meates has warned the board that the next four years will be the hardest yet.

‘‘It’s time to get prepared – if we don’t we will cause harm to the population,’’ he said.

Ever since the 2011 earthquake, the hospital’s clinical departments have been working under intense pressure, with quake repair work shuffling them around the hospital ‘‘like one of those 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles’’, Meates said.

And the abnormal working environment is about to get much worse.

‘‘We will likely look back over the last few years and think it was relatively simple as we are going to experience so much more over the next phase,’’ Meates said.


The $600m redevelopment of the city’s quake-hit health sector is the most complex building project in the history of New Zealand’s public health service.

At its core is the redevelopment of Christchurch Hospital – one of the busiest hospitals in Australasia.  On any given day, 1000 patients, more than 1200 visitors and 3000 staff members are in the building.

CDHB member Anna Crighton said transforming the large metropolitan hospital into a construction site would put ‘‘enormous pressures’’ on staff. 

‘‘It’s like putting a frog in water and slowly bringing it to the boil.’’she said.

With the final preliminary design of the new hospital just signed off, the redevelopment phase has been given the green light.  

It is set to ramp up in September, with construction teams moving on-site to prepare for New Zealand’s largest hospital rebuild.

Construction workers will take over the area behind the hospital, closing down the few remaining public car parks.

The back entranceway to the hospital will be fenced off, half the stairwells will be closed for repairs and the 70 or so trucks that deliver daily goods, such as laundry, food and medical supplies, will need to find new access points, Meates said.

By the end of the redevelopment every single clinical team and department in the hospital will have shifted at least once – some up to four times.

The relentless changing environment would increase the stress and anxiety for staff and the potential risk for patients, he said.

‘‘When you are shifting services all the time it does create a heightened risk of things going wrong.’’

Staff had been briefed on these risks and would ensure safety measures were in place, he said. ‘‘There will be no let-up for the teams. This is just so abnormal; it’s a clinical team’s worst nightmare.’’

CDHB member Andy Dickerson said he was very concerned about the welfare of staff going forward, especially since many were still living in badly damaged homes.

‘There seems to be a feeling in Wellington that the earthquakes are over and we are back to business as usual. This is far from the truth. In many ways the recovery has barely started,’’ he said.

Staff, patients and the public had been incredibly tolerant through all the repairs, noise, disruption and lack of parking so far and Meates said that same level of tolerance would be needed through the next phase.

‘‘We have expected an awful lot from our teams and they have been absolutely brilliant.’’

Christchurch Hospital would likely remain under construction until about 2021, he said.


Christchurch Hospital redevelopment kicks off in September and will be the largest hospital rebuild in New Zealand.

Construction is under way on the $200m Burwood Hospital facility.

In four weeks, the construction of a $13m health facility in Kaikoura will begin.

Demolition has already started on the Ashburton health facility to make way for its $9m development. 

The Press