Hopes report will advance upgrade plan for hospital

    Southland Hospital.

    The study, which attempted to assess future healthcare demands and need for Southland and beyond, was commissioned by the board last year as a supporting document for its longer-term plans to redevelop and expand the capacity at Southland Hospital.

    Consultancy firm Sapere considered available services and demographic trends in Southland, Gore, Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago, a catchment of 151,000 people.

    The board, and especially its three elected members from Southland, were desperate to get the document signed off yesterday so that Health New Zealand, the centralised agency due to take over from DHBs on July 1, could use it as a stepping stone to progress to site master planning at Southland Hospital.

    Terry King said the report identified the inadequacies of Southland Hospital, including the space in the emergency department and number of operating theatres provided in the original 2004 floor plan.

    “This upgrade will benefit all patients and meet the region’s future requirements, and we also see this document as being very important for Health New Zealand going forward.”

    Lesley Soper said when Southland Hospital was built Invercargill and Southland were not growing regions. They were now, and a hospital which was often unable to cope with demand was the result.

    “Our only regret is that we will not be sitting on the board when the site master plan is written, but we will certainly be watching and be available during the process.”

    Kaye Crowther said the Southland members had consulted extensively with hospital staff and she was pleased to see their input had been reflected in the Sapere report.

    “While there are no guarantees, it looks like being a brighter future and I am sure we will be advocating in the background as well.”

    SDHB Southland general manager Simon Donlevy said although the report was a final draft, there were a few small pieces of research still to be done to check some of the projections for 15 years hence.

    However, he was confident a final report would be available soon for HNZ on which to base its decisions about the future of Southland Hospital.

    SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said the assessment had been thorough and should inform the discussion on what health services would be needed in Southland and Central Otago for the next decade and beyond.

    Board member Lyndell Kelly was pleased the need in Southland had been appropriately recognised, but noted the report had also highlighted issues in the regions, especially in Queenstown Lakes, which would also need to be addressed.

    “In 2035 there will be 50,000 people in Queenstown and how many beds does Lakes Hospital have? Not much.”

    Arrowtown-based board member Jean O’Callaghan echoed Dr Kelly’s concerns.

    “This isn’t about buildings and capital stuff, this is about how do we meet the needs of the population and it’s a real challenge … but it has to improve in this area because the people will demand it.”

    Report findings

    •  Inpatient discharges could grow by more than 20% by 2038, and those cases will be more complex.
    • Consultations for people aged 65-84 years will increase by more than 50%, consultations for people aged 85+ will more than double.
    • Both Southland and rural hospitals need to expand.
    • Primary care capacity needs to increase.
    • More resources needed to care for the older population.
    • Demand on Southland Hospital unsustainable unless changes made.