Services key as South Canterbury DHB eyes Timaru Hospital rebuild
That Timaru Hospital could be redeveloped has been lauded by some health groups as a national lobby urges a renewed focus on services rather than bricks-and-mortar.
The South Canterbury District Health Board is in the early stages of developing a business plan to rebuild the hospital, ahead of an eventual pitch to the Health Ministry and Cabinet.
Until recently, the board was looking at reconfiguring the hospital's emergency department, medical investigation unit, outpatient department and medical day stay and cafe areas.
That would cost more than $10 million, which meant the budget would need to be authorised by the ministry.
In that context, the board decided it made sense to prepare a business case for a rebuild rather than spend several million dollars and still have a hospital that was more than 50 years old.
New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (NZRGPN) chairwoman Sharon Hansen, of Temuka, said the region needed a future-proofed hospital that worked for the facilities the community needed.
"The key message is maintaining the services we already have and having fit for purpose facilities," she said.
She hoped whatever rebuild came would happen as Timaru retained its specialist services and its ability to attract specialist staff.
Grey Power New Zealand president Tom O'Connor, of St Andrews, said he hoped any development plans would strike the right balance between capital spending and services.
The lobby had ongoing concerns about the length of elective surgery waiting lists and the financial and political constraints that appeared to get in the way.
"We are not short of surgeons or facilities. We are short of funding for the public service.
"I would say the availability of elective surgery is more important than bricks and mortar."
Timaru-based Prostate Cancer support group coordinator Bob Penty welcomed the rebuild investigation: "my own view is the sooner we get and upgrade the better".
The issue now was "how long a new hospital will take".
"From our local point of view we have had a really good run with the hospital ... but it's a bit of a hotchpotch up there, you have to take your time to find your way around it."
Radius Care managing director Brien Cree said the proposal was a "positive step" and that the aged care provider was "very supportive" of the project.
Timaru was a growing South Canterbury hub that needed more services: "I'm sure that elderly people are sure to benefit from such a rebuild."
Timaru Parents Centre Kate Howes hoped the investigation wold consider the views of the community, and of younger residents.
"It would be great to get more neonatal care in Timaru, instead of having to have families travelling to Christchurch and Wellington for [some of] their hospital services."
An improved children's ward would be welcomed.
Presbyterian Support South Canterbury chief executive Michael Parker said he was confident the board would recognise what was needed for te community and act appropriately.
"We support any improvements to the current infrastructure that will benefit the health of the South Canterbury community," he said.
Diabetes New Zealand chief executive Steve Crew praised the service provided at the current hospital.
Any services around pregnant women with diabetes were run through the hospital's maternity care scheme, which Crew said was run well.
"We would be happy if things stayed the way they are for diabetes with the rebuild. We are working more and more in the primary care sector, and what we do do with Timaru Hospital is very good."
South Canterbury Cancer Society manager Leola Smith said she had spoken with the society's patient support workers about the hospital's plans.
"They all said having an oncologist onsite would be really good," she said.
Smith said the society felt the services the hospital already provided to cancer patients were "good".
Services had also improved with the Ministry of Health's faster cancer treatment, introduced in 2012, which meant patients had timely access to appointments, tests which detect cancer and cancer treatment, she said.
Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk said his members would expect to have input into the project, as it will substantially affect those at the DHB.
"The DHB has agreed to a high engagement model of workplace relations, which aims to involve employees at every stage of identifying and resolving issues.
"We believe our members can make a valuable contribution to the redevelopment, and we look forward to our discussions with the DHB."
South Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Steve Earnshaw on Friday said much work had been done to look at hospital facilities over the past few years.
Instead of a medium size and interim fix, the DHB was better off looking at a significant rebuild. It would be money well spent, he said.
"It will give us the right facility for coming demands, rather than getting a smaller facility that will just patch things up over a few years.
"The process is going to take at least five years.
"It is very difficult to say what it will cost.
Board chairman Ron Luxton this week said a staged rebuild would "best utilise the scarce dollars" that may be available. That meant spending would be incremental.