More than 15 per cent of beds in Canterbury’s new multi-million dollar acute services hospital building are “on hold” pending additional funding.
Two 32 bed wards in the new $445 million building, which will have a total of 400 beds, will be left empty while the Government reviews a formal request for additional funding.
The original business case for the building in 2012 for 413 beds allowed for the replacement of some existing beds and 92 additional beds, 64 of which are on hold.
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At a meeting in February 2016, Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) members were told 64 beds had to be cut from the building design in a decision made by the Hospitals Redevelopment Partnership Group (HRPG), the Treasury and the Ministry of Health.
However, a month later Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said that was not the case and there would be no shortfall.
Last week, project director for the acute services building Leonie Kelly said the project would deliver an additional 92 beds “over the CDHB’s position as at 2012” and that 64 of those beds were on hold pending further funding.
The instruction from the HRPG to the contractor, CPB Contractors, was to “cold shell” the space for the 64 beds on level eight, Kelly said.
This meant the space would not be fitted out with partitions, lights, and services and would be left as an empty space.
CDHB board member and chair of the Hospital Advisory Committee Andy Dickerson said some uncertainty remained about the final bed numbers and configuration.
He said he would prefer the project was driven by the CDHB instead of the Ministry of Health’s HRPG.
“If this project was being driven by the CDHB, I believe progress would be much smoother and more transparent. We would be able to give our clinical staff and our community a much clearer picture of what was happening with the bed numbers and services, and other important matters like carparking.”
There was a “disconnect” between the HRPG and the CDHB.
“It is my personal view that the HRPG model is cumbersome, unwieldy, too centralised and too controlling,” he said.
He had only met the Chair of HRPG once in five years and had never met the other members of the group.
Ministry of Health director of critical projects Michael Hundleby said the new acute services building would have 400 beds once complete.
However, two 32 bed wards had to be “reviewed” as they could not be funded within the project’s budget “due to cost escalation pressures in the Canterbury construction market”.
The 64 beds had been put on hold to ensure construction could begin in January 2016.
The HRPG had put in a formal request for additional government funding, which was being considered by the Government, Hundleby said.
“It is hoped that a decision will be made shortly,” he said.
The CDHB’s chief executive and chair attended HRPG meetings and the project team were “in constant communication with DHB staff”.
The HRPG was overseeing close to $1 billion of hospital redevelopments in Christchurch, with projects tracking to time and budget “which shows the value of having a governance body oversee this significant investment of public money”.
Work on the new building had reached the halfway point, with completion set down for the end of next year.
The facility would provide services for patients needing short-term treatment for severe injury, illness, an urgent medical condition or recovery from surgery.