We are the union for senior salaried doctors and dentists.

We promote, protect and support the interests of our members in all aspects of their working lives. We are working for an equitable, accessible public health care system that meets the needs of all New Zealanders.

  • Blog

Hospitals or hothouses?

3 March 2020 Sarah Dalton - ASMS Executive Director

This morning Newstalk ZB wanted to talk to me – at 5.30am!! They are following up on an RNZ piece about Hawkes Bay Hospital and how hot it gets in summer. Fine. I woke up early and talked about how hot it is; and how bad that is. Less than five minutes of my time. But it can’t stop there. Some wards at Hastings Hospital are topping 30 degrees. Like the Nurses Organisation and the Resident Doctors’ Association – who’ve also spoken out – we are concerned. Inside temperatures of around 30 degrees are not safe for patients, and they’re not safe for staff.

Fans, ice blocks, tinted window stickers and “cooler uniforms” don’t cut it. $12,000 on sticking plasters is a lot. But so is $7m to actually address the issue. And it looks like HBDHB are pinning their hopes on a whole new build, sometime in the next decade or so. Meanwhile, the staff and patients must sweat it out.

And if things aren’t bad enough in the Bay, members tell us they have similar heat issues in Whangarei, Palmerston North, and Porirua. Maybe others too.

This is one of the uglier faces of the hospital infrastructure lottery.

It works like this: let your hospital buildings run down over many years. If something looks particularly nasty, hold your nose and look away. Let DHBs pitch for new builds and upgrades.  Don’t fund these on actual human need, and whatever you do, don’t listen to anything the doctors say about what makes hospitals safe and efficient. Turn the whole thing into a bit of a lolly scramble. And make sure that none of the approved builds have (a) quite enough funding and (b) are entirely fit for purpose. Finally, hand around some badly needed health equipment, but don’t check whether there’s staffing or other infrastructure available to make it useful. That way it looks good on paper but really just adds to the massive problem that passes for our health infrastructure.

To be clear, I’m not pointing a finger at this government – or even at the Ministry of Health or Treasury.  It’s all the governments over any number of years and all of the bureaucracy we’ve used to get to this point.

It’s time to make a long-term plan for health infrastructure – one which lasts longer than the term of one government, and one that all the pollies sign up to.

A plan for Aotearoa, for all of us, and especially for the health workers and sick patients currently sweating it out in overheated hospital wards.