Nearly $18 million of funding for upgrades to Tauranga Hospital facilities has been labelled "too little too late" by the Bay of Plenty MP.
Todd Muller said the funding was "better late than never" but it was "too little too late".
Health Minister Andrew Little announced in a media release yesterday upgrades to Tauranga Hospital would ensure non-Covid patients were safe while those with Covid-19 were being treated.
Three million dollars in funds would be used for the expansion of the ICU and high-dependency unit (HDU) to occupy the entire level-one floor which was previously shared with the coronary care unit (CCU).
This would include two additional ICU beds and four additional beds in HDU.
There would be $12.416m spent on moving the CCU to the level-three floor and expanding it by five beds.
Lastly, $2.5m would be spent on converting a ward into a 16-bed pandemic response ward. Air management upgrades would also take place in the emergency department.
This included the ICU and other upgrades in Tauranga announced last week.
Muller said the ministry had been "very tardy" in its response and support of the local hospital and community.
He also said it was "not clear" the extent to which elective surgeries could be restarted.
"They got cancelled for the last few months and put off to next year and there's really no confirmation from my perspective that all those hip and knee operations which are so needed by so many in our community will actually take place at the volume that's necessary."
The announcement was "not a commitment to ensure that the operations which were cancelled over the last few months to make room in the hospital for Covid patients will be restarted", Muller said.
In response, Little said planned care (elective) services had continued to be delivered at all alert levels, with priority being given to patients with the highest clinical need and urgency.
"But some planned care has, nevertheless, been postponed and we need to prevent even that level of disruption from occurring.
"The deferrals were to reduce risk of Covid transmission and to preserve resources that may be urgently needed."
Little said New Zealand's success in responding to the pandemic meant there had never been more than 11 Covid patients in ICU at once
"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."
Little said the previous National Government "left a legacy of massive underinvestment in health infrastructure, including the intensive care unit".
"For two whole years, National didn't invest a single cent in health infrastructure, despite a growing and aging population. By contrast, the Labour Government has already put $6 billion into health infrastructure."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Pete Chandler said the extra funding would be enough to complete the Covid-related works at Tauranga Hospital.
Stage one of the Covid works at Tauranga Hospital had been under way since the beginning of October, and stage two works had been scoped in recent months, he said.
"With the budget and funding now confirmed this will allow us to continue our works programme after the completion of phase one."
Tauranga-based Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said she was "delighted" resources were going into essential health services so more Kiwis could get the care they needed when they needed it.
She said hospital-level care was "certainly" part of the Covid-19 response, but the most effective response was preventing people from getting sick in the first place, which is where vaccinations came in.
"The best thing that people in the Bay of Plenty can do is to get vaccinated."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said while this was "late", it was "nevertheless good to see" and was looking forward to it happening.
The rapid hospital improvements programme set aside $644m from the Government's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
It was made up of $100m for capital and $544m for operational costs including staffing. The programme would be rolled out alongside an international health workforce recruitment campaign.
In the media statement, Little said with high vaccination rates and better treatments and prevention methods, the Government was shifting to "better support planned and routine care while also safely caring for Covid patients".
"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."
Little said the ministry asked Bay of Plenty District Health Board to prioritise projects that would strengthen local hospitals to provide planned and routine care in the age of Covid-19.
Some projects would be completed as early as March, he said.