A glimpse inside new private hospital

17:50, Jan 24 2014
Forte Health
HEALTHY COMPETITION: Forte Health, the new glass-encased, private hospital in Kilmore St, Christchurch.

The pillows are plumped, Sky TV is yet to be turned on and the nozzles of the unopened hand sanitiser bottles are all facing in the same direction.

Christchurch's new private hospital smells like the interior of a new car. A flash new car.

Forte Health is a multimillion-dollar specialist, short-stay hospital owned entirely by surgeons.

Forte Health
GLEAMING FACILITY: The never-been-used orthopaedic operating theatre at Forte Health. Theatre team leader Ruth Hanham adjusts the screens above the operating table.

It is a three-storey, glass-encased fortress with lime-green interior frills, four operating theatres, 14 overnight beds and seven recovery recliners.

The Kilmore St hospital, born out of the closure of the earthquake-damaged Oxford Clinic, opened its doors just before Christmas and last night it housed its first overnight patients.

The Press was invited to walk through and get a feel of the new facility that is shaking-up Christchurch's private hospital market.


Forte Health
SOOTHING TONES: The lime-green flower lampshades displayed above the cafe of Christchurch's new private hospital, Forte Health.

The stark contrast between the private and public health sectors was plain the moment the doors slid open to reveal a waistcoated doorman standing in a cloud of sweet air-freshener.

Like a hotel, each carpeted hospital ward had an ensuite, Sky TV and perfectly-pressed duvet.

With the medical equipment stashed away in a hidden cupboard, the only things that said ‘hospital' were the hand sanitiser and the box of rubber gloves attached to the wall.

Forte Health general manager Dorothy Paton said the hospital was designed to relax patients and help them comfortably recover after surgery.

So far, about 30 patients have been operated on at Forte and Paton said the feedback had been "really positive".

Its $18 million interior fit-out included high-tech equipment, IT systems and training facilities, she said.

Cameras are stationed inside the four theatres and can be projected into board rooms, allowing students, nurses or medical colleagues to watch and ask surgeons questions during operations.

The "extremely safe" building meets 180 per cent of the earthquake code.

The piles are as deep as the height of the hospital and its interlocking steel frames are designed to move and absorb energy in a large earthquake.

"In a major disaster we would be back up and running very quickly and could have facilities available for public healthcare also," she said.

Forte Health is targeting the biggest volume of surgery in the market - the short-stay, less-complex procedures - from four key specialties: ear, nose and throat, urology, orthopaedics and gynaecology.

It is understood all of the city's urologists, at least half of its orthopaedic surgeons and all but one ear, nose and throat surgeon are shareholders in the venture.

Last year, The Press highlighted concerns surrounding Forte's shareholder-surgeons potentially having a vested interest in shepherding patients towards their hospital for personal gain.

However, Forte Health chairman David Barker rejected the criticisms and said the surgeon-shareholders were well aware of their ethical responsibilities and would always act in the best interest of their patients.

Forte will inevitably soak up hundreds of operations and millions of dollars in revenue from Christchurch's two existing private hospitals, St George's and Southern Cross, but Barker said it was just "restoring competition" in the city's private hospital market since the closure of the Oxford Clinic.

The new hospital's official opening date is scheduled for late February.

The Press