We have a problem in South Canterbury. We're all getting older, and we're living longer.
Well, it's a problem if you run a hospital that is, because older people keep popping in to see you.
And at some point, you're going to start running out of room.
So it is good news then that some long term planning is going on.
The release of an options document on Thursday brought about story one of what will be many stories in coming years. Quite a number of years, probably.
I hope I'm wrong, but it's hard to imagine such a major upgrade being completed by 2018, as indicated in the Facility Master Plan.
That's because so many interests are involved, because the project has to compete against other centres which have higher population growth, and because of the recession. There will be limited funds for hospital upgrades in the next few years.
In making its case the South Canterbury District Health Board can point to a number of factors. We have a higher percentage of older people than most other districts – 18 per cent of us are aged 65-plus when the national average is 12 per cent. By 2021 there'll be almost twice as many of us aged over 85 than there are now.
Also, the present facilities have a use-by date ... only 3.9 years apparently, and what we have now needs earthquake strengthening.
The earthquakes themselves provide another argument to improve the hospital here. As in other spheres, it pays to spread your resources around. Timaru and Ashburton hospitals were able to assist following the February 2011 disaster, so deserve to be reinvested in.
It plays into our hands too that a $100 million project here would make a significant difference, whereas in Auckland it would be just another part of a bigger picture.
The hospital board is taking a sensible approach in looking right across its operation in this plan, and seems to be seeking widespread feedback.
So, good news, and we'd encourage the board to proceed with urgency, before we all get much older.
Another thing: The board's plan is comprehensive and readily accessible via its website, but be prepared for some jargon and wordy, confusing paragraphs.
Some of it requires a second reading to understand it, but we did have to go back to the board on one term – relifing, as in relifing a building.
Apparently it means to upgrade a building in a way that extends its life.
You learn something new every day.
- The Timaru Herald