By: Lucy Bennett

New Counties-Manukau DHB chair Mark Gosche speaks to the Herald about the challenges faced by the organisation. Video/Jason Oxenham

New Counties Manukau District Health Board chairman Vui Mark Gosche says there are a “whole lot” of things that are a priority in his new role helping to sort out Middlemore Hospital.

“I don’t like hearing this is an embattled DHB, it’s a DHB that’s getting on with its work and it’s got some challenges, Gosche said on Tuesday.

Gosche began in his new role as board chairman on May 3. On Monday he was taken on a tour of the Middlemore Hospital campus to get a first-hand look at some of the building issues that have plagued the hospital.

With its ageing buildings and some bad construction, Middlemore Hospital has problems including weathertightness-related rot and mould, seismic issues, asbestos and sewage leaks.

Asked what Middlemore Hospital’s most pressing needs were, Gosche paused before saying “a whole lot”.

“Of course the buildings are really important, because that’s what’s been focused on – around that whole confidence in our health system. That needs to be addressed.

“I think that’s another part of my role, to make sure all that stuff gets answered publicly. It’s about keeping confidence in the system and making sure that we’re getting information out there to dispel anything that may or may not true.

“When I walked through there yesterday, people are getting on with it. I think when we see this stuff in the media I think it does knock confidence but that confidence pretty much comes back and people carry on and it’s business as usual. They don’t really have any option.”

Gosche, who is now chief executive of VakaTautua, a national not-for-profit “by Pacific for Pacific” health support service provider, said Middlemore Hospital had issues but it wasn’t broken.

“It’s working. You can see that they continue to do more each year. If it was broken you couldn’t do that.”

Middlemore was a hospital that had grown as the community around it had. It was not a purpose-built, brand new hospital and its problems were worsened by rapid population growth, high demand and funding that had not kept up.

“I suspect many, many hospitals that have grown like Middlemore has, or Auckland or North Shore or Waitemata, in an incremental way,” Gosche said.

“They will all be faced with similar difficulties and similar problems – the population growth and demand increasing beyond what the facilities can actually handle.

“One of the things that really stuck in my head was that they were getting increased funding but it wasn’t meeting the increased growth. These things don’t happen overnight but you get a sudden acceleration in the last couple of years, when you read these reports.”

Gosche, who replaced Rabin Rabindran as chairman, said the board had not been sitting on its hands waiting for someone to help fix the hospital.

“The management have been working really, really hard. You come in to join that effort and hopefully make a difference to being able to getting it seen through.”

Despite the apparent magnitude of the task in front of him, Gosche said he did not hesitate long before taking the role when it was offered.

He grew up two streets away and two of his children were born at Middlemore.

“I obviously thought about it but it’s an important job and the community is really important to me. This is where I was born and where I grew up and obviously where I still work. I think the whole thing around community service is that it’s something that you want to do. This is a task that needs to be done and I think I have enough skills and knowledge of the community to put that into the chair’s role.

“But I’m really keen to be pursuing the plans that [the DHB] has had about better things happening in the community so people aren’t just reliant on having to use the hospital system, doing the preventative stuff and the early intervention.”

Counties-Manukau DHB yesterday released two documents laying out the state of the infrastructure and facilities.

They also show the DHB having to make “trade-offs” in where it spent the money it had.
With estimates that the DHB would be serving an extra 70,000 people by 2025, master plans in 2008 and 2010 identified significant investment was required at Middlemore to accommodate the high population growth.

Source: NZ Herald

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