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Consent for new hospital risks wasting taxpayer money – panel

The Department of Health has said it will continue to seek expedited consent for preparatory work for the new Dunedin hospital, despite the independent panel assessing the request questioning whether this is wise.

Consents for the $ 1.47 billion project are being sought in stages and the ministry is in the early stages of Stage 1 – an application for fast-track approval for the foundations and earthworks of the two main hospital buildings and auxiliary buildings.

The panel has now questioned the ministry about its planned two-pronged approach to seek consents for buildings at a later date.

He also warned that changes that could be requested if consents were subsequently granted for the hospital buildings could mean that the ministry wasted taxpayer money building preparatory works agreed only to modify them.

The panel cited examples of traffic management, town planning, wind management and shading as factors that could be questioned when the ministry applied for building permits.

“Does the applicant accept that he may have wasted financial resources in constructing the structures in phase 1 (if he agreed), only to find some of them not usable due to the changes required to- above ground? Asked the panel.

“… Could the applicant prefer to postpone consideration of the Step 1 application to this stage and present both steps to a panel simultaneously, perhaps as a single project?” “

The Environmental Protection Authority, the body responsible for overseeing the request, has just published the correspondence between the independent panel ruling on the request and the ministry.

In its response, the ministry said it accepted that it would have been better to have filed a single request for consent, but design issues, many of which are caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, meant waiting having all the plans completed would have caused too much delay.

“The ministry carefully considered the implications of this delay for the risks of a staged consent process (including the risks identified by the panel) and determined that it would take the risk of advancing consent in stages. “

Much of the demolition work on the twin sites in the city center on which the new hospital is supposed to be built has been completed.

The ministry still intends to open the new ambulatory care building in January 2025 and the largest hospital care building in April 2028.

The ministry said the condition of the current hospital, which lacks operating room capacity and several buildings in poor condition or no longer fit for purpose, means it needs to take urgent action. to avoid compromising the health of southerners.

“In addition, current market conditions are such that the costs of program delays are likely to be much greater than the costs of any redesign work that may result from misaligned steps.

“The ministry is also aware that this project – and the large number of jobs it will create – is a key part of the district’s recovery from the social and economic impacts of Covid-19. “

All of these factors meant that the ministry was committed to starting the new Dunedin Hospital project as quickly as possible and was prepared to accept the risks the committee had identified.

“This risk has been fully overcome and it is recognized that the risk of disconnection between stages, as well as the financial and program costs associated with solving such problems, lie with the department.”

The panel is now awaiting comments from invited parties on the hospital project and has received seven responses.

The deadline for other responses is Monday.

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