Papakura Courier

People ‘deserve better’

Calls for new south Auckland hospital as Middlemore turns 75

- STEPHEN FORBES Local democracy reporter

There are calls for a new hospital in south Auckland as its existing facility, Middlemore, gets set to celebrate its 75th birthday.

The hospital was originally built in 1943 for United States military personnel serving in the Pacific during World War II. It opened to the general public on May 3, 1947. It now caters for a population of 578,650 people and serves some of the most socioecono­mically deprived communitie­s in the country.

It also has the busiest emergency department in the southern hemisphere.

An ongoing staffing shortage and decaying infrastruc­ture have also been cause for concern over several years.

A healthcare worker who spoke to Local Democracy Reporting, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the hospital was showing its age.

‘‘It’s 75 years old and it looks like it in some places.’’

She said it had been added to in a piecemeal fashion over the years to increase services.

While staff did everything they could to help serve the needs of the community, Middlemore Hospital just wasn’t big enough, she said.

‘‘The area’s population has outgrown the hospital.

‘‘Some days there’s nowhere to put patients because there are no beds on the wards.’’

She said a new hospital was desperatel­y needed for Counties Manukau.

‘‘It’s long overdue, the problem is they should have started work on it 10 years ago.’’

Parliament’s health select committee carried out an annual review of the Counties Manukau District Health Board last year and said Middlemore Hospital was regularly ‘‘operating at or above 100% capacity’’.

‘‘Counties Manukau DHB is trying to fit more services into its existing facilities, and increase its workforce, but is increasing­ly running at the limits of its infrastruc­ture.’’

The committee asked what plans were in place for a new hospital in the area.

‘‘Counties Manukau DHB noted that investment planning for the entire region points to the need for a new hospital, and Counties Manukau is probably where that hospital would go.’’

Associatio­n of Salaried Medical Specialist­s executive director Sarah Dalton said she was aware of Counties Manukau DHB’s plans to increase its capacity through the $236m Manukau Health Park redevelopm­ent.

‘‘But there’s still a need for a new greenfield­s hospital in the south Auckland area, because there’s a limit to what they can achieve at Middlemore,’’ she said.

Dalton said the people of south Auckland deserved better.

Continuall­y trying to upgrade existing health facilities that were past their use-by date had its limitation­s, she said.

‘‘That No 8 wire approach has served us well in the past, but it’s a terrible way to develop hospital services.’’

Ministry of Health infrastruc­ture unit deputy director general John Hazeldine said it was working with the district health boards in the northern region (Auckland and Northland) to develop an infrastruc­ture roadmap.

That was expected to be completed late this year and would look at the demand for both hospital and community-based services across the region.

The Counties Manukau DHB was approached for comment.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

‘‘That No 8 wire approach has served us well in the past, but it’s a terrible way to develop hospital services.’’

Sarah Dalton, Associatio­n of Salaried Medical Specialist­s

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