Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) was reluctant to ask the previous government for funding to fix mouldy, rotting and unstable buildings because of pressure from ministers to stay in surplus, its acting CEO has said.
It will cost $1.6 billion to remediate the issues in multiple buildings, and add new buildings to meet demand, and about the same to build a new acute hospital and facilities.
CMDHB Chief Executive Dr Gloria Johnson told ‘Checkpoint with John Campbell, “The reality is that we may need both given the growth in Auckland.”
Details of the serious building issues were revealed earlier this week (Indian Newslink web edition dated March 22, 2018)
Minister wants answers
Health Minister Dr David Clark said that he was demanding answers from the DHB because he was told that only one building had serious mould, but the issue was much larger than that.
There were “serious” cladding issues in four buildings, and asbestos and seismic issues and deferred maintenance in other buildings.
“And some of our buildings have all those problems together; we have got lots of problems.”
The DHB has been aware of some of the issues for about four to six years but was hesitant to ask for any funding to fix them.
Jonathan Coleman writes
In a letter titled, ‘Living within your means’ dated October 27, 2016, former Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman wrote to the DHB: “I am pleased to see that your DHB is planning a surplus for 2016-2017 and the following three years.”
When asked if the DHB was not doing the work required because Dr Coleman wanted it to stay in surplus, Dr Johnson replied “Yes.”
“I think the government, the whole government, has expected the health sector to be able to live within its means, and to be able to do that we have had to compromise on our capital investment programme,” she said.
Following the Christchurch earthquakes, DHBs “were given to understand” that there was “very limited capital available for other things,” Dr Johnson said.
If it had acted to remediate any issues, or build any new buildings, it would have to spend capital, be charged interest and acquire depreciation, “that then affects our operational budgets and runs the risk that we will run into deficit.”
“In general terms, we have a problem with a reluctance to actually identify the scale of the problem and therefore the cost and the effort that might be required to fix the problems. Because of a belief in the health sector that we will not be able to get the capital investment required and that we will not be able to afford to engage in the work.”
While the DHB desperately needed issues on many of its buildings to be remediated, there was a more urgent need for additional buildings to meet demand from a growing population, Dr Johnson said.
“We cannot afford to wait until we have finished all the remediation work before we start investing in new capacity because we need new capacity as well.”
Dr Coleman and Health Minister Dr David Clark declined to be interviewed on this subject.
Dr Clark has a meeting with Dr Johnson later this week.
In a statement, he said: “The previous government neglected and underfunded our hospitals. This government is committed to a well-funded public health service, but the reality is that the legacy of underfunding will take some years to turn around.”
Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz