Upgrade funds go to dispute
Money set aside to refurbish ‘‘Third World’’ hospital wards was taken to settle a dispute with a contractor on Christchurch’s new hospital building.
Documents, released under the Official Information Act after a complaint to the Ombudsman, reveal the Ministry of Health reached a $13.8million settlement with the head contractor for the new Waipapa Hospital building in February last year.
This settlement was to cover new items not previously in scope, avoid going to court and accelerate the already massively delayed project.
To pay for the settlement, the ministers of health and finance in February 2019 allowed the ministry to use $13m allocated under a previous budget to refurbish cramped, six-bed wards in the Parkside wing that senior doctors have deemed ‘‘clinically unacceptable’’.
Parkside patients face a heightened risk of infectious disease as they must share one shower with 10 others and one toilet with six patients.
Despite the recent opening of the new Waipapa Hospital, Parkside wards will still be needed for another 10 years at least, for more than half of all hospital patients, because of faster than expected population growth.
The documents note the transfer of funds does not affect the overall budget for Christchurch Hospital’s redevelopment, and funding for Parkside would be subject to a further bid.
The latest business case for the Parkside building renovations includes compliance work to enable legal occupation for another decade at a cost of $80m, but slashes a previously agreed refurbishment budget of an undisclosed amount.
The Press understands that between $10m and $20m is needed for this refurbishment, which would be done with the aim of reducing beds in most Parkside wards from six to four and making it clinically acceptable.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman, in a written statement, said additional funding for Waipapa had not affected Parkside.
The $13m previously allocated to Parkside’s refurbishment was from a
‘‘It was a notional budget set aside for a business case which is still to be approved.’’ MOH statement
2018 business case. The ministry had
$20m notionally set aside for Parkside, noting that a detailed business case would confirm the funding required, she said.
‘‘The ministry’s use of the $13 million to expedite the delivery of Waipapa was an internal accounting process given it was a notional budget set aside for a business case which is still to be approved.’’
Australian contractor CPB started building Waipapa in 2016 with an original budget of $455m and an expected completion date of July 2018.
However, the Canterbury District Health Board only moved in this month. The two-year delay cost $20m a year in surgery outsourcing, contributing to the health board’s ballooning deficit.
The new 401-bed facility provides the hospital with an extra 35 beds.
The total cost to the Crown was
$525m, which was $70m over its initial budget. The additional costs included project delays, scope changes (the link bridge and additional wards) and
further remediation work (passive fire and seismic restraints) identified during final checks, a ministry spokeswoman said.
CPB also has contracts for two other delayed building projects: the Christchurch Metro Sports Facility and Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.
The Press understands HealthMinister Andrew Little will be meeting with the Canterbury DHB chairperson in Christchurch tomorrow.
The health board’s acting chief executive, Andrew Brant, said it was awaiting the outcome of detailed business cases submitted to the Ministry of Health for tower three of Waipapa and compliance works in the existing campus, particularly Parkside.
This would include fire safety and seismic improvements.
The board was also liaising with the ministry to consider what clinical improvements to Parkside could practically occur as part of further work, such as upgrades to wards and theatres, with a ‘‘strong focus on safe patient care standards and infection control’’.
‘‘It should be noted that funding previously set aside was done so notionally in anticipation of a final detailed business case being developed for the redevelopment of Parkside,’’ Brant said.
CPB did not respond to a request for comment.