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Opening of Acute Assessment Unit, Hawke's Bay DHB

Fri, 24 Sep 2004

Opening of Acute Assessment Unit, Hawke's Bay DHB

Health Minister Annette King today opened a new facility, the 20-bed Acute Assessment Unit, in Hastings.


As Minister of Health, there is nothing I want more than for New Zealand to have the best possible health services it can afford.

I know, however, that even with the best will in the world, it is not always possible for any country to provide the right health care in the right place at the right time.

And that is why it is such a special occasion indeed today to be asked to open a new facility, the 20-bed Acute Assessment Unit, which is dedicated to trying to achieve just that.

I am not at all surprised to find such an undertaking happening at Hawke's Bay District Health Board, because I know this DHB actively embraces innovative health care solutions, and also that it is committed to providing first-class health services within its budget.

I want to thank Hawke's Bay chief executive Chris Clarke and deputy chair David Marshall for their comments and welcome.

And I would like to congratulate the board on their performance for the past year.

I am told that at the recent board health care services advisory committee meeting, Dr David Marshall said the board had performed seven per cent more elective surgery in the past financial year than in the previous 12 month period. Dr Marshall also said: "In some cases we overprovided, without exceeding the budget, and this is good news for Hawke's Bay people as more people benefited from surgery."

I also note that 154 people received surgery on the mobile surgical bus in the past year; that there are now 38 per cent fewer people waiting over six months for their first specialist assessment, and there are now 72 per cent fewer people with certainty waiting over six months for elective surgery.

Dr Marshall also noted that the additional $1.5 million being invested in elective services this year will allow Hawke's Bay to perform considerably more orthopaedic operations in line with the Government's commitment.

I fully support David's and Chris's enthusiasm for this new development, and expected nothing less than such enthusiasm after reading Chris's comments in Hawke's Bay Today during a sneak public preview of the unit earlier this month.

Each day the unit has been open staff have been fine-tuning the way it works, and earlier this week, I am told, there was a most unusual sight of a table being moved into the unit's main room.

There is nothing unusual in itself at the appearance of a table, of course, especially when hospital doctors say that a table is necessary.

What was unusual is that the doctors, having decided they needed a table to round out the facilities on offer, went off themselves to procure the table from elsewhere in the hospital.

The means they used to procure this table have subsequently been described as either semi-legitimate or semi-illegitimate, depending, I guess, on whether you work in a room that is now one table down, or whether you work in the main room here that is now one table up.

Such behaviour is the very essence of the collaborative health environment I want to foster, of course, but, more seriously, I am delighted that staff are demonstrating so obviously that they enjoy what this new facility has to offer patients in terms of an improved health service.

I said I would talk a little more about how first-class this service is, and I can illustrate that with another story that has been passed on to me.

Last week an elderly Maori man was in the unit for assessment. Because of various medical conditions, the man has regular contact with the health system and he was overheard commenting enthusiastically that being in the AAU was like being in a four star hotel.

He upgraded his assessment a short while later when the newspaper he had ordered and paid for was actually delivered to his bedside. The AAU had suddenly become a five-star establishment, as far as he was concerned.

As you all know, this development, also including a revamped and more family-friendly emergency department reception and waiting area, new pharmacy, an upgrade to the renal dialysis unit, an additional triage and step down resuscitation area, and a new library and education centre, has been the largest undertaken at the hospital since the redevelopment in the 1990s.

Completing a development of this type involves much commitment from many people at the DHB, and I want to congratulate everyone on the staff who has played a role in completing such a significant achievement, particularly those who have continued to provide the highest levels of service while working around a construction zone.

I know how difficult it is to work with the dust, din and chaos of a building site, while trying to provide the highest possible care, but I am told that is exactly what staff did here. Those working in pharmacy, ED, radiology, physiotherapy and occupational teams, security, biomedical engineers, and the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation teams just carried on regardless.

In particular I want to thank Chris McKenna, acute services manager, Sharon Payne, ED teams leader, and Chris Trow, clinical charge nurse in the AAU. I am told that Chris was the person who made it all work, before coming to this new building, with the practice run on the fourth floor.

I am also told that Chris was found by the COO, on one of his after-hours walkabouts, dusting down the builder's dust. When she was told she didn't need to do that, she replied that it was a labour of love.

This appears to be the hallmark of this project, right from the board down to those on the ward floor.

I also want to congratulate the core project team, project leader Mandy Robinson, whom I am told was the glue that held the project together, soothed ruffled feathers and made the project a reality, Ken Mitchell, information technology and systems, Paul McCartney, facilities engineer, Peggy Kersley, project support, Wendy Kennedy, human resources, Brett Clough, business analyst, and Chris Lord communications.

And let's not forget the library and education centre staff, who have spent the past nine months in temporary accommodation.

And last, but not least, thank you to the board of Hawke's Bay DHB for having the vision for this project, and for funding it from within existing budgets. This new Acute Assessment Unit will create new ways for clinicians, allied health staff, support staff and primary care providers to work together, and this development will also help the DHB manage the sharply increasing demand for secondary acute medical services and free up resources for providing more elective services.

The Government is committed to increasing elective operations, and the orthopaedic project, announced earlier this year, designed to double the number of joint operations each year, will benefit the people of Hawke's Bay. This is a $70 million project.

The previous facilities were clearly unsatisfactory, though staff coped exceptionally well, as health professionals generally manage to do, and I thank them for that.

Because of the unsatisfactory facilities, patients were being admitted as inpatients to wards as the safest option, when it would have made far more sense to have been able to carry out a comprehensive assessment in a short-stay facility like the one we now have.

I have already been told one example of how the new unit can provide a better service for patients by streamlining the processes involved for patients who come in for blood transfusions. Some of these patients come in regularly, of course, and they are likely to benefit in particular.

This Government has put money where its mouth is in terms of its commitment to health, with health spending now totalling about 20 per cent of all government spending. Since the Government took office, health spending has increased from $6.7 billion to more than $9.9 billion, and will reach $10.7 billion in 2006-07.

I am very pleased at the commitment of DHBs to meeting the Government's policy requirement to secure better access to health care and more affordable services.

This huge level of investment in health has allowed me as Health Minister to sign off on the largest public hospital upgrade programme ever undertaken in New Zealand, with this year's Budget bringing to $802 million the amount of capital available for this purpose.

The Government is committed to providing quality hospital facilities to complement our quality health professionals, and we will continue to do so. It is all part of building community trust in the quality of the public health system.

Bricks and mortar do matter. They affect staff morale and the efficient running of services.

I am sure this unit will serve the community and staff well in the years ahead by providing the right care in the right place. You can all be proud of what your initiative and hard work have achieved. Thank you again very much for inviting me to share such a special day with you.


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