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King: Turning of first sod at Masterton Hospital

Wed, 3 Nov 2004

Turning of first sod at new Masterton Hospital

Venue: Wairarapa DHB, Masterton. Health Minister Annette King helped celebrate the start of work on a new hospital in Masterton, saying it was a significant development for Wairarapa as a whole.


People in Wairarapa have been waiting a long time to celebrate the start of work on the new hospital, and that makes it all the more special that the day has finally come around.

So, before I say anything else, congratulations to everyone, particularly Wairarapa DHB's management and staff, whose hard work, vision and determination have done so much to make this occasion a reality. Wairarapa needs and deserves a new hospital, but I know that hospital staff and people in the Wairarapa have had to live with uncertainty about whether the hospital would be upgraded for a number of years.

Today we know for sure that the wait is going to be worthwhile. We can celebrate the beginning of not just a refurbishment, but the beginning of the final stage of something better still, a new hospital designed to meet the needs of Wairarapa for many years ahead.

Thank you very much to the board's chair, Doug Matheson, for his welcome today, and to the board for inviting me to share an historic occasion. This is a significant development for Wairarapa as a whole, but it cannot be seen in isolation. It is one of a series of significant hospital developments now already underway or planned around the country.

In fact, the Government has embarked on the largest public hospital upgrade programme ever undertaken in New Zealand, with $802 million in capital available over five years. Most of the money has been allocated to projects in Auckland, Capital and Coast, Canterbury, Southland, Waikato, Thames, Kaitaia, Dunstan and Wairarapa, but since the Budget I have also announced the Tauranga Hospital redevelopment and Horowhenua is coming closer too.

The Government is committed to providing quality hospital facilities to complement our quality health professionals.

Wairarapa might be the second smallest DHB in New Zealand, but it has unique characteristics, and clinical planning shows that Masterton will continue to require a small general hospital to provide acute and emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The new hospital will include a 39 bed combined medical/surgical ward, obstetric inpatient unit, neo-natal nursery, intensive care/coronary care unit, emergency department, outpatients, medical imaging, laboratories, pharmacy and a new operating theatre suite.

Excited though we all are about the new hospital, it is important to remember that modern healthcare is about more than just buildings. It is about the people who deliver services and the way they can do that most effectively, and, most importantly, it is about patients having timely access to an appropriate range of services.

Wairarapa's population mix is predicted to change over the next few years, with increasing proportions of older and younger people and Maori, the groups that have the greatest needs for health and disability services.

That is why I am pleased that Wairarapa DHB has given so much thought to the services and models of care needed to meet changing population needs.

The new "partnership model" of integrated health care practice, that is the basis for the new hospital, envisages new ways of working, such as an increased use of day-stay care and flexible use of beds.

The new hospital gives a great opportunity to redesign services so they are better integrated across continuums of treatment and care, particularly primary care and community based services. The design of the hospital will enable new ways for nurses, clinicians, allied health staff, support staff and primary care providers to work together. A new hospital that functions more efficiently will also help the DHB manage within its available funding. I am sure that Doug and his board will be scrupulous about doing just that.

DHBs are now being funded at unprecedented levels, with about 20 per cent of all public spending now allocated to Vote Health. That does not mean there is no longer any need for DHBs to make tough decisions from time to time, but they can do so within the strategic framework that has been established for health priorities, and also with the certainty of long-term, fair funding under the Population Funding Formula that provides all regions with the level of health services they deserve.

A real key to achieving a quality health system is collaboration between DHBs. This is a concept that Wairarapa DHB understands very well. The partnership model involves finding opportunities for more regional collaboration and integration of clinical and treatment services with adjacent DHBs, and it is really important that the board and staff, including clinical staff, of course, continue to plan and provide clinical services from a regional perspective.

A major challenge facing the health sector both nationally and internationally is recruiting and retaining health professionals. When DHBs work together across boundaries, we can ensure we make the most of the pool of talent we do have, and the clinical staff themselves generally find their work more professionally satisfying as well. While smaller DHBs will always find it more difficult than larger ones to recruit and retain key clinical personnel, the cross-regional policy will certainly help, and I am sure that having a new hospital will also definitely help to attract staff to work in the region.

I wish the board and staff all the very best over the next 15 months as the new hospital takes shape. I am confident that it will be built on time and within budget.

Congratulations again to everyone who has been involved. Under this Government new hospitals are not approved on political whims. They are only approved after a robust business case has been developed by a DHB. That is what Wairarapa DHB did so well. Now the building can commence, and in 15 months we can all get back together again to celebrate its completion. Thank you again for inviting me to join this first of what I am sure will be many more celebrations along the way.


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