The Government has moved quickly to commit to the delivery of hospital services in the Hutt Valley, with at least as many beds as there are now.
Yesterday it was revealed the main building at the hospital, the Heretaunga Block, has a 15 per cent New Building Standard rating and is earthquake-prone.
There are 210 physical bed spaces in the building, which account for a quarter of hospital beds in the region.
Health Minister Andrew Little has pushed back on fears services will be centralised in Wellington, in light of major health reforms just weeks away from coming online.
He said people didn't need to worry about the question of whether there would be a hospital in Hutt Valley.
"We will have a hospital in the Hutt Valley."
But Hutt City mayor Campbell Barry said he would have concerns for as long as there was no initial budget and timeframe for existing services to be returned.
"Supportive comments are a start, but our community will not rest until we have a firm commitment that all current services will be returned to Hutt Hospital."
Little is meeting with local leaders tonight, including the mayor and MPs, about the future of the hospital.
Hutt Valley DHB is coming up with a plan to move patients out of the Heretaunga Block and services will continue to be provided from the building in the meantime.
The situation has unfolded against the backdrop of major health reforms, with all 20 DHBs soon to be disestablished and replaced with a single entity called Health New Zealand.
People in the Hutt Valley could very well be fearing their healthcare might end up being centralised in Wellington, between the state of the main hospital building and the reforms.
This would be a less than ideal sentiment for Health New Zealand to walk into.
It's an issue locals have proven to feel extremely passionate about in the past.
In 1991 about 20,000 people filled High St to protest a proposal to centralise health services to Wellington and downgrade Hutt Hospital.
But speaking on the reforms in relation to Hutt Hospital today, Little said there was no centralisation of services.
"Decision making has been centralised, if you like, as we bring together 20 DHBs, but we will have hospitals and health services available right throughout New Zealand."
Little also said it made sense to have a hospital in the Hutt Valley from an earthquake risk perspective.
"You've got to have a number of hospital campuses just for the sake of disaster recovery options alone."
Hutt Hospital's earthquake woes come too late to be considered in Budget 2022.
Regardless, it would not have been a good look for the Government to leave the question of the hospital's future unanswered on the eve of the Budget, which has been billed as a Health and Climate Change budget.
When Labour Hutt South MP Ginny Andersen learned the building was earthquake-prone, she sought a commitment from senior ministers that the hospital would be fully operational in the future.
"The commitment I've had is that we will have a hospital in the Hutt that's operating as it is now or better than," she said.
"I'm really hopeful that we will see that all located in one space because that's what we've always had in the Hutt and that's what people expect."
Andersen said a specific timeframe and budget would take time to work through as it was still unclear whether the building would have to be rebuilt or could be remediated.
That commitment means the fate of the hospital is less likely to become the battleground for the Hutt South electorate next year.
The fight for the seat will be a hot contest between Andersen and National list MP Chris Bishop.
Bishop turned the seat blue in 2017 when Trevor Mallard gave up the electorate to run for the job as Speaker.
Andersen recovered from that defeat and rolled Bishop in the 2020 election.
Bishop welcomed the Government's commitment to retaining at least the same number of hospital beds in the Hutt as there are now.
National has committed to doing the same, he said.
"It's absolutely imperative that the Hutt has a well-resourced hospital, it's the ninth biggest city in New Zealand.
"I'm looking forward to meeting with the minister tonight to discuss what the plan is from here in regards to the Heretaunga Block."
As local political leaders meet Little to discuss the fate of the hospital, it's clear they agree on two things.
Firstly, services need to be returned to Hutt Hospital.
Secondly, there's a real lack of information at the moment to make decisions on what that might look like and how much it would cost.