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PM Speech: Christchurch Women’s Hospital Opening

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister Address at Opening of Christchurch Women’s Hospital

Riccarton Avenue Christchurch 4.30 pm Friday 6 May 2005

Thank you for the invitation to open the new Christchurch Women’s Hospital.

This is a state of the art hospital, and at a cost of just under $79 million represents a huge investment in Canterbury’s health system.

Major upgrades of our public hospital infrastructure have been going on all over New Zealand and much more is planned.

Minister Annette King and I were at the opening of the new hospital in Invercargill a few months ago, and Annette presided over the major opening at Waitakere Hospital in West Auckland recently.

Last year’s Budget committed $802 million over four years for new hospital infrastructure across the country, from Kaitaia in the north, to Dunstan in Central Otago – and many projects in between.

In health, we know that buildings aren’t everything.

It’s what happens in them which counts.

But it certainly makes a huge difference to our highly valued health workforce to have modern facilities and state of the art equipment.

There will be many fond memories of working at the old Christchurch Women’s Hospital on Colombo Street.

But alongside those memories will be the experience of working in the new hospital which represents best practice in hospital design.

This matters for all who use the hospital – the women who give birth here and their babies, and the women who seek treatment here. Each one of them deserves the very best that we can provide in health care in New Zealand.

There are critical respects in which women’s use of our health services differs from that of men.

In the first place, most women have children – and enter hospitals like this one, not because they are sick, but because they are in the best of health and about to give birth.

It’s also fair to say that women’s contact with the health services continues throughout the family life cycle. Women are more likely to be the carers for children and for older, frail, or disabled relatives.

For all these reasons, I find women very well informed about what goes on in our health system.

As well, there are now good screening systems for women’s health problems like cervical cancer and breast cancer – which see well women getting regular checks.

Alas, a common cancer among men like prostate cancer cannot be so readily checked for.

This hospital has big facilities devoted to maternity services and neonates, and to services for a wide range of other women’s health needs.

The chances are that most Christchurch women, and most Christchurch families, will come here for one reason or another in the course of their lives.

That makes this a very significant building.

I want to acknowledge everyone who works in the hospital – professionals, technicians, aides, management and administration – and the very important cooks and cleaners.

A hospital is like a big team – everyone has a very important role to play in making coming to this hospital the best possible experience it can be.

Putting on my hat as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, can I congratulate those who’ve designed the hospital on making sure there is provision for artworks.

All the artwork has been sourced locally – and all but two original works are by Canterbury women.

Some of the artworks have been created by staff here at the hospital, some by children, and some have been donated by the community.

Art in the hospital helps create an environment which is pleasant and attractive, and either cheerful or reflective where it needs to be.

Over the close to five and a half years I’ve been Prime Minister, I’ve seen government spending on health rise by almost fifty per cent to not far short of $9 billion a year.

One of the most fundamental duties of government is to fund a good public health system.

In health, there’s always more to do, but I know we are giving it our best shot.

Coming to an occasion like this to celebrate the opening of a major new hospital makes all our efforts seem worthwhile.

I wish all those who work at Christchurch Women’s Hospital all the best in their work for women and for babies.

It is now my pleasure to declare the new Christchurch Women’s Hospital officially open.


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