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Hospital gets a critical injection of funding


Balancing act

Health Minister Andrew Little has announced a welcome funding boost for Wairarapa Hospital.

The government has set aside more than $700,000 for the hospital upgrade, aimed at supporting routine care and keeping non-covid patients safe and separate from covid patients.

The work is planned for next year, with $736,000 in capital funds allocated. The focus will be on separating emergency department [ED] front-of-house, portacabin ED assessment areas, an ante-room in the acute assessment unit, mobile filtration and clinical equipment, and intercoms and IT for isolation areas.

“With high vaccination rates and better treatments and prevention methods, we are shifting to better support planned and routine care, while also safely caring for covid-19 patients,” Little said.

“Treating covid patients can be disruptive to other treatment as additional precautions are taken for infection prevention and control. This is about minimising that disruption.”

He said Wairarapa DHB was asked to prioritise projects that would strengthen the capacity of the hospital to provide planned and routine care, as well as covid. Some funded projects were expected to be completed by March next year.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the extra funding was good news.

“It certainly is very welcome and will make a big difference for our hospital,” he said.

“The hospital plays a pivotal role in our community, and the funding will definitely make a difference.

“It means plans the DHB have had in place for some time will be greatly assisted.”

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff expected the cash injection would help boost the covid response.

“While we are very good at responding quickly to put in place the changes needed to support our community through the threat of covid, the improvement funding will allow us to establish a more appropriate, fit-for-purpose facility,” she said.

“Even small efficiencies can make a big difference, and we look forward to these supports being implemented.

“We are taking a cross-sector approach in responding to covid. Whatever we can do now to prepare our community and our healthcare facilities for increased demand of covid-related illness is time well spent, and we have a lot of staff across many different agencies working hard on our planning.”

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson agreed.

“Wairarapa Hospital is a key asset for the whole region, and it is gratifying to see the government investing to ensure it is in a good position to manage whatever we encounter with covid-19 in the future.

“The work this funding will enable should give the people of Wairarapa confidence the hospital can safely manage all patients,” she said.

McAnulty said the funding boost would help the hospital operate as usual while dealing with a possible increase in demand due to covid.

“It will pay dividends now as well as in the future. While the jury is out on the severity of [new variant] Omicron, it shows the government has taken the right approach. Other countries which have loosened restrictions early have seen a big increase in cases,” he said.

Little confirmed extra government funding for 36 upgrades at 24 local hospitals across New Zealand, together with operational costs to support them. The total cash injection for this healthcare initiative was $644 million from the covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Funding would also cover ICU and other upgrades at North Shore, Tauranga and Christchurch hospitals, as previously announced.

Little said the government had put $6 billion into health infrastructure, and in 2022 a further 75 standard inpatient beds in hospitals would be added.

“Additionally, 355 existing inpatient beds will be converted into isolation or negative pressure environments, and a number of hospitals will have ventilation upgrades. These upgrades will allow routine and planned care to continue and patients with mild to moderate covid-19 to be treated while helping to protect all patients, visitors and staff from the virus.

“The upgrades include 23 new ICU/HDU beds, as well as eight temporary bed conversions to ICU,” he said.

The majority of people with covid were not expected to need hospitalisation or an ICU bed.

“Increasing the ICU and HDU capacity is part of the wider plan to rebuild our health system,” Little said.

The Rapid Hospital Improvements Programme utilises $644 million from the covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund. It has $100 million for capital and $544 million for operational costs, including staffing. The programme would be rolled out alongside an international health workforce recruitment campaign.

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