"Six football fields" of floor space in the new Dunedin Hospital has disappeared and a facility that is too important to get wrong may prove to be inadequate, National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse says.
Budget pressures have led planners for the hospital development to consider erecting a single hospital building rather than the planned two buildings.
The two-building model — a day surgery building and an acute services building — remains, but planners estimate the new building will have about 89,000sq m of floor space.
When the Southern District Health Board appeared before Parliament's health select committee earlier this year, Woodhouse pressed officials on the new hospital's likely footprint.
"We have lost six football fields from a hospital footprint which was, by the best estimates, the minimum footprint that an effective tertiary-level hospital would need," Woodhouse said yesterday.
"The revelation we are likely to see 89,000sq m when what is really needed is 95[sq m] at a minimum worries me greatly ... this is too important to get wrong."
The $1.4 billion hospital project encountered budgetary issues last year, mainly because of the likely expense of foundation work.
Clinicians and planners have since been wrangling over the final size of the hospital, what services will be in the building, and what will be excluded.
One clinician said yesterday a building of the size proposed would not be fit for purpose when it opened, a concern Woodhouse echoed.
"Eighty-nine thousand was a number that clinicians could not accept and 95 was considered the optimal number; we have lost six of those 7000sq m.
"My biggest concern is that we still don't have a detailed business case approved; we are now six weeks behind the extended deadline they gave themselves, we still don't have it, and the issues that the project had back then are clearly still going on."
Money was clearly the main sticking point, as Treasury was not prepared to accept a hospital that cost more than budgeted and it appeared "a decent hospital will cost more", Woodhouse said.
Earlier, Southern Partnership Group chairman Pete Hodgson said planners remained unsure what the budget for the project would end up being. The Government has ringfenced $1.4 billion for it.
"My view is that it may well come in above the $1.2-$1.4 [billion], but not by much; we may well be pushing out the timelines, but not by much."
Hodgson said he hoped the detailed business case would go before Cabinet before the election and was "quite confident" the amount of floor space in the final building would be fit for purpose.
"We are still nailing the final bits, but the important thing with any hospital is to get the important bits sorted - the emergency department, the number of intensive care and high-dependency beds and flexibility between the two, and the number of surgical theatres - and we are just about to put numbers on that.
"I can tell you that there will be five day surgical theatres in the little building, when at one stage we thought there would only be four, and at one point three."
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said any possible cuts in space for the hospital would be disappointing, and said the facility should be designed to meet community need rather than meet a budgeted cost.
"It would be a concern if the need was still there but the size wasn't ... we only have one chance to get this right."