South Auckland's district health board is getting a big funding boost from the Government to free up beds at one of New Zealand's busiest hospitals.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon Counties Manukau DHB would receive $211.4 million for upgrades at its second-biggest facility, the Manukau Health Park in Manurewa.

That will let the health park - which includes the Manukau Superclinic and Elective Surgical Centre - take more patients and "decongest Middlemore Hospital", DHB chairman Vui Mark Gosche said.

Ardern said the money would help deliver "more equitable outcomes for South Aucklanders".

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Middlemore is the busiest hospital in Australasia by some measures.

It serves a highly diverse population of more than half a million people, many with complex health needs. Cramped facilities have increasingly seen delays in services as demand exceeds capacity.

For example, in February the Herald reported dozens of women had late diagnoses of breast cancers partly because there was not enough space at the Manukau Health Park.

Most of the funding will go to expanding and upgrading the Manukau Superclinic and Elective Surgery Centre in Manurewa. Photo / Supplied
Most of the funding will go to expanding and upgrading the Manukau Superclinic and Elective Surgery Centre in Manurewa. Photo / Supplied

The DHB now plans to grow the health park so it can separate outpatient and elective services (planned care) from acute services, which are provided at Middlemore.

The money will go toward four new theatres, establishing CT and MRI diagnostics at the health park, and expanding breast and renal services and clinical outpatient spaces like ophthalmology.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and devastating Whakaari/White Island eruption meant a large number of elective surgeries were deferred - a stark reminder of how important it was to free up beds at Middlemore, Gosche said. The DHB had maintained critical services during the pandemic but many surgical cases needed rescheduling.

Counties Manukau DHB chairman Vui Mark Gosche says the extra funding will make an
Counties Manukau DHB chairman Vui Mark Gosche says the extra funding will make an "enormous difference". File photo / Jason Oxenham
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In the past two years there had been around 850,000 outpatient appointments at the DHB, about 90 per cent of them at the health park, Health Minister Dr David Clark said. That was expected to increase another 25 per cent in the next decade.

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Clark acknowledged there were "long-standing problems" with the DHB's facilities and infrastructure and the funding was part of an ongoing programme of upgrade work.

He said another $35m would go to recladding at the Elective Surgical Hospital and McIndoe building at Middlemore, and $20m to cover core infrastructure work at Middlemore.

Middlemore's buildings have been in the spotlight after a report found weathertightness problems including leaks, rot and mould and asbestos issues.

The announcement comes a day after the Government released its stocktake of hospital infrastructure across New Zealand, showing it would cost $14 billion to fix over a decade.

Where the $221m is going

• Increased theatre and outpatient capacity - up to four new theatres and 20 recovery beds, a new sterile services unit, and over 40 new clinical outpatient spaces.

• A new radiology hub including four ultrasound suites, two CT scanners and one MRI scanner. Currently patients go to Middlemore for CT and MRI scans.

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• Fully integrated breast screening service and an expanded renal dialysis hub.

• New plant room/substations, IT, medical gases and parking to support the expansion.

• Extra $35m for recladding DHB buildings and $20m for Middlemore infrastructure.