Over half a billion dollars will be pumped into upgrading 36 hospitals across the country to allow normal care to continue among a potential influx of Covid-19 patients.
The $644 million spend comes from the Government's pandemic war chest, and includes $100m in capital spending and $544m in operating costs, including staffing to prepare for widespread Covid next year.
The funding will cover new hospital beds and upgrades to intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in some of the country's most remote and vulnerable regions.
Health Minister Andrew Little said they'd asked DHBs for projects that would strengthen local hospitals to provide planned and routine care in the age of Covid-19, and could start as soon as possible in 2022. Some projects will be completed as early as March.
"With high vaccination rates and better treatments and prevention methods, we are shifting to better support planned and routine care while also safely caring for Covid-19 patients," Little said.
"Treating Covid patients can be disruptive to other treatment as additional precautions are taken for infection prevention and control. Today's announcements are about minimising that disruption."
The funding was announced last week with four projects, but today Little expanded on that with the list of 36 upgrades.
Across the country the funding will add 75 inpatient beds, 23 new intensive care unit (ICU) and high dependency (HDU) beds, eight temporary bed conversions to ICU, and 355 beds will converted to isolation or negative-pressure environments.
Little said through the pandemic there had never been more than 11 Covid-19 patients in ICU at any one time.
"The vast majority of people who get Covid won't need to go to hospital, let alone need an ICU bed. Increasing ICU/HDU capacity is part of the wider plan to rebuild our health system."
The programme will be rolled out alongside an international health workforce recruitment campaign, Little said.
The funding is separate from the $65.1m recently announced for a new six-bed ICU facility, two negative-pressure rooms, and a new 30-bed ward at Waitākere Hospital in Henderson, Auckland.