Amidst the cloud of election promises, some really do matter!
The election pledge of most profound significance to all residents of Hawke’s Bay is this week’s announcement by the Labour Government that it will commit up to $1.1 billion to build a new hospital in Hawke’s Bay. There is no infrastructure project of greater significance to the region … this one potentially touches each one of us.
Said Labour’s Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verral:
“The current hospital in Hastings, built in 1927, is no longer fit for purpose and has seismic resilience issues. At a cost of between $700 million and $1.1 billion, the new hospital will be fully funded in Labour’s fiscal plan over the next decade. The business case will begin in Labour’s first 100 days.”
That’s a ‘Read my lips’ commitment.
Labour’s Tukituki MP Anna Lorck has worked tirelessly for this outcome over the past three years. Lorck commented to BayBuzz about what she calls a “once in a century opportunity”:
“I made it my mission to get a fully funded commitment to build HB’s Hospital in my first term and I have never stopped advocating. My health governance background and the strong working relationships I have built both locally and in Wellington have ensured I’ve been able to keep pushing on the initial feasibility work, which includes a new clinical services plan that will identify the unmet need in our communities.
“I’d like to commend the huge work of the hospital’s local team, many of whom I have built strong relationships with, as they’ve got on with the serious front end feasibility work – all of which will feed into the business case development.”
If there were ever a regional proposal deserving cross-party support, this is it.
BayBuzz asked National candidates Catherine Wedd and Katie Nimon, both guaranteed seats in the next Parliament, whether elected to them or list-anointed, for their views.
Their joint reply: “National is committed to building a new hospital and ran on this in 2020 [Editor: reference is to a Lawrence Yule campaign promise], but Labour took it off the table. It’s an important project for our region and we’ll be relentless advocates for getting it done.”
That’s not a straightforward commitment to fight for $1 billion, as MP Lorck has done successfully.
And to date, their boss Chris Luxon has hedged on the hospital. National’s unequivocal commitment to this initiative is imperative.
In weighing the prospects, voters should note that in the National Government’s last reign, not a single dollar was allocated to capital improvements to our HB Hospital … not one dollar. The urgent capital improvements that were made had to be squeezed out of operating budgets … money sorely needed for frontline services.
Ideally, whoever holds the purse strings after the election, work must proceed immediately to evaluate the best path forward – a totally new greenfields hospital or refurbishment of the existing building.