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Clark: Opening of new Wairarapa Hospital

Thursday 4 May 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Opening of new Wairarapa Hospital

Wairarapa Hospital
Te Ore Ore Road, Masterton

11.00 am

Thursday 4 May 2006

Thank you for the invitation to be here today to celebrate the opening of the new Wairarapa Hospital.

The district’s local paper, the Wairarapa News, last month described the transition to this new hospital as “the biggest upheaval in the district’s medical history” !

It is indeed a huge change to move from the old hospital with all its history and memories for local people to a new, 21st century hospital – but there’s no doubt the change was needed.

I first visited the Wairarapa Hospital when I was Minister of Health in the 1989-90 period. In the 1990s I followed closely the debate about the future of the hospital.

Now there can be no debate: the Wairarapa has a purpose built new hospital, and it is here to stay. I have no doubt that the local community will embrace the new hospital in the same spirit as that which drove people to rally round to save the old.

It was in December 2003 that Hon Annette King as Health Minister made the commitment to the District Health Board that Wairarapa would have a new hospital. Annette herself had personal experience of the need for hospital services in the Wairarapa: she received care here when she sprained her ankle several years ago !

I had the opportunity to visit the building site for the new hospital last year, and to be briefed on the vision and plans for services at that time.

It has to be said that what matters most about a hospital is the quality of care provided within it.

But how much easier it is to provide top quality care in modern facilities designed to meet today’s needs and not those of the last century.

As well, a modern facility improves working conditions for all hospital staff, and that is positive for morale and for recruitment and retention.

The new hospital enables a range of important services to continue to be provided; and in some cases services are being expanded.

With the new hospital, there also come new ways of delivering services, and in some cases these require change to years of clinical practice. All this requires detailed planning and meticulous preparation for staff across the hospital, which is no easy task.

What has happened in hospital facilities in the Wairarapa has also been happening all over New Zealand.

Our government has undertaken one of the largest hospital building and refurbishment programmes in living memory.

I myself have had the honour of opening brand new hospitals in Invercargill, Central Otago, and Hawera. New provincial hospitals have also been approved during our time in office for Kaitaia, Thames and Horowhenua. Currently we are considering proposals for Whanganui Hospital and for Wairau Hospital in Blenheim. As well, there are major new hospital buildings in Auckland Central, West Auckland, and Christchurch – and new investments approved at a number of other sites.

These huge investments, running at in excess of a billion dollars, reflect the priority our government gives to the public health service.

We want high quality facilities operating to best practice across New Zealand. We believe in investing in the capability of the public hospital system, because most New Zealanders rely on it in time of health need.

A well equipped, well functioning public hospital system is a critical asset and an essential service for our country. That’s why few New Zealanders begrudge spending on it, or on the improvements to the salaries of the nurses and others who keep the services running.

New buildings and facilities, and salary improvements account for some of the more than sixty per cent increase in health spending of the last six years. Other critical spending has gone into waiting list reduction, improving mental health care and support, more affordable primary care, and huge public health campaigns like that against meningococcal meningitis.

Benefits from all these investments can be seen in the Wairarapa. The most visible symbol of our commitment to the public health system is the new hospital, but lower doctors fees, and more resources in other areas are making a difference too.

I congratulate the Wairarapa District Health Board on the successful completion of this project, on time and on budget.

I wish the Board, the staff, and the people of the Wairarapa all the best for the new hospital, and have great pleasure in declaring it officially open.


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