Orienteering skills have been a necessity for visitors to Waikato Hospital over the last nine years.
People trying to find their way to the hospital's wards and clinics have been faced with the frequently traumatic ordeal of negotiating a labyrinth, as the lengthy $500 million reconstruction project slowly takes shape.
But that will soon come to an end, with the final building blocks in the Tetris-style puzzle being aligned within a few weeks.
And rather than trekking through a snaking series of corridors, people will soon be able to walk the breadth of the hospital along a spacious hi-tech boulevard area, complete with shops, a pharmacy and dining area.
The final chapter of the rebuild, begun in 2005, will come with the completion of the Meade Clinical Centre's "red corridor", which effectively runs the length of the five-level 39,000 sq m building, from the Older Persons and Rehabilitation Building on Pembroke St to the hospital's main entrance by the Hague Rd carpark building.
It's the end of a job well done, says building programme director Ian Wolstencroft, who gave the Waikato Times a guided tour around the hospital campus.
"We have delivered a very good hospital. The next stages, when money allows, will be replacing the Menzies Building [formerly home to surgical and medical wards] and building a new ward block.
"We are over halfway there in developing the campus. I look forward to seeing what it will look like in 2023."
Until the start of the rebuild, there had been little investment in the hospital since the mid-1960s.
"The red corridor effectively unlocks the site and links it from east to west," project manager Kevin Bardsley said.
One more major project remains: The construction of the new 4.5-storey building on the site of the demolished Smith Building, which will house wards and cancer treatment services. That job is still at least six years away .
Former nurse Lynette Jones, who has worked at the hospital for 19 years, is of the reconstruction team. The difference for staff between the old and new facilities was "like night and day", she said. "The old hospital was tired and space-constrained in certain areas."
Part of her role was finding temporary work spaces for staff during the construction. "It's been like working on a big jigsaw puzzle. It has been challenging at times. We've been reusing old spaces that had been vacated as part of the move into the big new clinical centre and trying to get cohesion."
Until the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, the hospital rebuild was the biggest reconstruction project in the country. At 26.5 hectares it is the largest hospital campus in the southern hemisphere. About 4500 people visit it each day - it is by far the most-visited location in the Waikato - and a further 5000 people work within the hospital campus.
- Waikato Times