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King: Speech - Opening Southland Base Hospital

2 September 2004 Speech Notes

Annette Keng Speech; Opening Southland Base Hospital

Today is a special occasion for Southland, and I am delighted to be part of it.

Someone asked me a question the other day, and that was do you think Southlanders will be more excited by their record rugby victory over Northland at the weekend, or by the official opening of their new hospital?

As Health Minister, I did not even have to think about the answer. As far as excitement levels are concerned, new hospitals always carry the day.

Anyone watching television at the weekend would have seen how excited Southland people are, with people queuing up just to get a preview.

I should also point out that Southlanders still have so much self-belief in their rugby heritage, and in their netball heritage too, that a win is never really unexpected, particularly against that other province from the other end of the country.

I will talk more about the excitement of new hospitals shortly, but this is truly a memorable day for the people of Southland. The fact that the Prime Minister has come here today as well shows the level of this Government’s commitment to long-term investment in health and to Southland.

I also want to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues Mark Peck, Mahara Okeroa and Bill English, the chair, deputy chair and chief executive of the Southland District Health Board, Dennis Cairns, Lesley Soper and Gershu Paul, Mayor Tim Shadbolt, the hospital’s nursing and midwifery director Leanne Samuel, clinical director Norman MacLean and the hospital transition development manager, Helen McKenzie; all the staff of the hospital, their friends and the Southland community; and also former CEO Mary Bonner who has come back especially to be here.

And, finally, I want to acknowledge someone who is unable to be here today. The Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, is a proud Southlander, and is very disappointed she could not make the opening, though Dr Colin Feek, deputy-director general, clinical services, is pleased to be representing her.

I know this is a proud day for everyone associated with the hospital and DHB, and I particularly thank Lesley Soper for compering this opening ceremony.

Completing a development of this size is not easy. When I signed off the $69.7 million approval for constructing the new Southland Base Hospital in July 2002, I knew that my signature was just another stage in a long process.

Well before I signed, there had already been much commitment shown by those who eventually succeeded in gaining government approval, and since then there has been even more demand for wholehearted commitment from contractors, planners, administrators and health professionals as the project has been brought to reality.

Congratulations to everyone who has played a role, no matter how small. This new hospital is an aggregate of the work of many hundreds of people, and today you can all share in the final result.

The old Kew hospital was built in the 1930s, and when I first visited the old hospital, before the 1999 election, I was immediately convinced it needed to be rebuilt as soon as possible. If the hospital itself badly needed replacing, staff members were and are doing a fantastic job.

The old hospital had grown a bit like topsy. New bits were added, and the design and layout made it difficult to provide modern-day models of care.

One of the immediate benefits of the new hospital will be the modern facilities it provides, and I am sure staff will thoroughly enjoy the challenge of adapting to new ways of delivering healthcare.

Modern healthcare has changed for the better in so many ways. Many of you can probably remember the old Dee St Maternity Hospital and the days when mothers weren’t allowed out of bed for two weeks.

Babies were taken away to a nursery and relatives had to look at them through the glass. Now we treat birth like the normal occurrence it is, not like an illness.

About 70 per cent of people needing surgery are now day cases, whereas many years ago they could have been an inpatient for two weeks or more. Now the average length of stay for hospitals is a little over three days. Technological advances will be ongoing, and something we fix with an operation today will be done by laser tomorrow.

Many of you are already familiar with the way this hospital will work, because Helen McKenzie has taken you on tours of the building during its construction. I believe the level of Helen’s enthusiasm, about the modern work practices this new hospital will allow, is indicative of just how much the new environment will mean to the hospital’s health professionals and staff.

That is what I meant before when I talked about the excitement factor in new hospitals. Because of this Government’s investment in new hospital infrastructure around the country, I have been privileged to announce a number of new developments in my time as Minister of Health.

Everywhere I do so, whether in small places like Kaitaia, Thames, Dunstan and Masterton, or larger cities like Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga, the excitement factor is always a constant, both among health professionals and in the community. New or redeveloped hospitals stand as a beacon of progress, and hospitals remain the glue that holds many regions together.

I want to emphasise that no region can see itself in isolation. A key to achieving a quality health system is collaboration between DHBs. This hospital is an important link in a chain of health services that begin with primary health care in Southland communities, that includes this hospital, and that extends to other services in Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland as well.

Regional planning with neighbouring DHBs, such as Otago, is vitally important. One major challenge facing the health sector around the world is recruiting and retaining health professionals. When DHBs are able to work together across regional boundaries, we can make the most of the pool of talent we do have. I am pleased to see an increasing level of cooperation between Southland and Otago DHBs.

Finally today, I want to reinforce the fact that this new hospital is for all of Southland; it is for the people who live nearby, but it will also serve the people of Queenstown, Gore, Winton, Tuatapere, Wyndham and the rest of rural Southland, and I welcome your representatives who are here today. Before I close, I want to commend the Southland District Health Board for the good job it is doing for the people of Southland. That is demonstrated by what we see here today, but is also demonstrated by the services you provide throughout the region.

Thank you again to everyone whose dedication has contributed to this project becoming a wonderful reality. I hope you all thoroughly enjoy working in an environment for which you can all take so much credit, and I am sure Southland people will share those sentiments.


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