A $200,000 grant from a new charity — and possibly prison labour — will give Northlanders somewhere to stay when family members are being treated at Bay of Islands Hospital.
The grant, from the Hugo Charitable Trust, will pay for materials for a new whānau house as well as clinical equipment and a telehealth system for the accident and medical department currently being built at the hospital site in Kawakawa.
The telehealth system will allow specialists based in the intensive care unit at Whangārei Hospital to give advice on emergency patients in Kawakawa.
The Northland District Health Board is in discussions with the Department of Corrections about using inmates in Ngāwhā prison's carpentry programme to build the six-bed whānau house.
Prisoners have previously built homes for Habitat for Humanity, a charity which provides families with low-cost housing.
The general manager of Northland's regional hospitals, Jeanette Wedding, said the DHB encouraged family members to stay overnight and participate in the care of their loved ones.
"The Hugo Whānau House means that extended family can be close by without the need to travel the long distances experienced throughout the rural Mid North,'' she said.
The Hugo Charitable Trust was set up last year by Maryanne Green, a daughter of the late Irish-born businessman Hugh ''Hugo'' Green.
Born in Ireland to a poor family, Green left school aged 12, moved to New Zealand as a young man and built his wealth through construction, oil exploration and farming. When he died in 2012 his wealth was estimated at $400 million.
The trust aims to continue his philanthropic work around New Zealand, in particular by relieving poverty, advancing education and health, and supporting the disadvantaged or marginalised. In 2017-18 the trust gave away just over $3m, most of which went to medical research and care.
Maryanne Green said the organisation was delighted to contribute to the Bay of Islands Hospital project with its clear benefits to Mid North people.
The district health board is spending $9.9m rebuilding the hospital and bringing the area's health services together under one roof.
The Mid North's biggest health infrastructure project in decades, it will include an accident and medical department, radiology and after-hours GP service on the ground floor and a 20-bed medical ward upstairs.
The two new resuscitation bays will be known as the Hugo Resuscitation Bays in recognition of the trust's donation.
The new facility will be officially opened in September this year.
Originally Ngati Hine Health Trust was to have built an integrated wellness centre adjacent to the new hospital to house Kawakawa and Moerewa's three GP practices as well as community health, outpatient, pharmacy and dental services.
However, the health trust pulled out last year after the wellness centre's projected cost escalated from $8m to as much as $15m.