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Palmerston North Hospital Redevelopment

Hon Annette King Speech Notes

Thank you very much for inviting me to share this special opening ceremony with you today, and for inviting me back to a city that was a happy home for me for almost three years in the 1990s.

The redevelopment of Palmerston North Hospital has been completed on schedule, but construction has nevertheless taken more than three years. I hope today makes all the dust and disruption worthwhile.

Firstly today I want to thank a few key people and organisations for their contribution to the redeveloped hospital.
- Carson Group, the project managers.
- Architects DiCarlo Potts.
- MidCentral Health liaison staff Dr Murray Kirk and Jeff Small.
- And Holmes Consulting Group (structural and civil engineering), Rider Hunt (quantity surveyors and cost planners), Lincolne Scott NZ Ltd (mechanical and hydraulic engineering), Holmes Fire and Safety, and Meritec Consultants (electrical and lift engineering).

Today IS a special day in Manawatu, and it has also been a day with a difference for me in terms of the health portfolio, with major events this morning at both ends of the public health system.

My first assignment this morning was in Christchurch opening an important primary health care conference, and I have come straight from there to be here to celebrate the official opening of the STAR Centre and the final step in the redevelopment of Palmerston North Hospital.

Needless to say, I am delighted to be here for such a positive event, but I was also delighted to open the Primary Healthcare Conference.

It is interesting to reflect that when I first became Minister of Health, little more than two years ago, attending two such events one after the other would have provided stark contrasts. Now, however, there is nothing incongruous about the timing whatsoever.

I have often said that a major ambition of mine as Health Minister is to implement the Primary Health Strategy. That means placing an emphasis on keeping people well, and out of hospital, for as long as possible.

But, of course, people expect any public health system to look after them when they are sick, and that also means providing the best hospital facilities and care we can afford.

Well, I certainly feel confident in saying Palmerston North now has a hospital in which local people can take genuine pride and comfort, and I am sure everyone at this opening agrees with me.

I would like to thank staff and patients for their tolerance and patience over the past few years. It is never easy to complete a large-scale project like this on an existing site, and I congratulate everyone who has played a part in this achievement.

People will draw strength from these new facilities as hospitals perform a symbolic role as well as a practical one. Hospitals are where many of a community’s more specialised health and disability services are centred, and their physical presence tends to be reassuring.
Hospitals have traditionally engendered a confidence in people that the public health system is there to look after them, and even though I believe it is essential that primary health care becomes more accessible to all New Zealanders, hospitals will continue to be vital in terms of providing community reassurance as well as care.

There are a number of hospital redevelopment programmes in progress around the country, and there are several others at various stages of planning and approval. All the new and redeveloped facilities will help place us in good stead for meeting the future hospital needs of New Zealanders.

This complete development has been built with a number of specific aims. Among the many advantages of the new facilities, I am told they achieve the following:
- They incorporate the DHB’s community services on one site.
- They cluster complementary services close to each other to promote cooperation and collaboration between departments and services.
- They establish separate patient and public access ways to services.
- They improve the main entrance and reception area.
- They provide better group outpatient clinics and locate these closer to support services.
- They improve patient pre-admission and pre-surgery procedures.
Housing related departments close to each other, and having community and secondary services on one site, is designed to encourage integration and greater cooperation between services.

Improved outpatient and outreach services also fit closely with our objective to provide care and support without having to admit people to hospital.

The country needs to continue developing innovative and flexible arrangements for delivering health and disability services, because traditional institutional settings for delivery services are not always the most appropriate or effective way of delivering care.

The new DHB structure is designed to encourage innovation and greater local relevance in terms of primary health care and disability services. I strongly believe that will happen, and that is why this new hospital is only one part of the equation in terms of the contribution MidCentral Health will make to the new public health service.

New Zealand can no longer pretend that central government or the Ministry of Health is capable of providing all the health solutions the country needs.

That is why we need to provide DHBs and their communities with the opportunities to use their expertise and knowledge to address their own health needs whenever possible and appropriate.

This Government also recognises that improving the health of all New Zealanders will occur through a combination of factors. We also need to address, and are addressing, economic and social inequalities contributing to poor health, and we are encouraging and fostering lifestyle changes that empower people to improve their own health.

There is growing understanding, I believe, in the wider New Zealand community that no Government can meet all New Zealanders’ expectations about health.

We need to be realistic about comparing ourselves to the likes of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States, whose affluent economies can support more elaborate health systems than ours.

That does not mean we have to accept second-best, however, and I do not believe that is what we are doing. We need to provide the very best health service we can, and that means planning strategically within the resources we have, and working innovatively with health professionals and our communities.

I strongly believe the recent $3 billion increase in funding under the three-year funding package will make it considerably easier to plan in this strategic way. The package is not overly-generous, but it is substantial enough to allow DHBs to plan with greater certainty than they have in the past.

The old system, of living hand-to-mouth from year to year, does not encourage sensible planning and the best use of resources.

But that is all heavy stuff, and today is a day for celebrating.

Congratulations again to everyone who has played a part in bringing this redevelopment to fruition. This redeveloped hospital will continue to be an integral part of the Manawatu community for decades to come. You should be proud of it, and I am proud to here on the first day of this hospital’s new start. Thank you again for asking me to be part of your special day.

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