About getting it right

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Government has made to upgrade the hospital, maintain tertiary services and ensure the future of the Dunedin School of Medicine finally got through to the Otago public, a co-ordinated campaign to implore the Government to rebuild the hospital on or near its present site commenced, together with criticisms about the length of time the whole process was taking.

A decision on location will be a function of the future of the main hospital block.

If it can be refurbished, the question answers itself. If not, then the location question is trickier.

I want the hospital to be located near the university for reasons of synergy with the health sciences faculty and it would need to be a compelling case to do otherwise. Land availability will be vital.

As for how long the process is taking, a little bit of history is helpful.

Planning for the refresh of the hospital buildings we have now commenced in the early 1950s.

Maintenance of the then Dunedin Hospital had been curtailed during World War 2.

As with the present day, there was much discussion about where the new hospital ought to be built, with a long-running argument about whether Wakari Hospital (completed circa 1957) would become the Otago Hospital Board’s main hospital, leading to further neglect of the central city facility.

building and the main hospital block were part of the design and, while the clinical services building started in the mid-1960s, much more work was needed before the ward block could be completed.

At the official opening of the ward block the then minister of internal affairs, the Hon David Highet, remarked that it had taken 24 years of planning, development and building to get that far.

So, by the best historical information I can locate, the clinical services building took 15 years to plan and build and the main hospital block some 24 years.

A more recent example can be found at Wellington Hospital. It took a little over 10 years to plan and build.

Even under post-earthquake urgency, the rebuild of Christchurch is scheduled for 2019, more than eight years after the quake.

While I understand the frustration felt at perceptions of delay, future generations wouldn’t thank us for rushing into a solution that doesn’t endure.

I also encourage readers to look to both history and more recent projects to determine whether the proposed 10-year timeframe is too slow.

As with many good things, getting it right is better than getting it early.