© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Will Covid delay new Christchurch hospital, again?

Emma Roberts
Rob Ojala
Rob Ojala at a tour of the new hospital.  Emma Roberts

Higher alert levels will prolong staff orientation at new Christchurch hospital building, set to open in November.

The largest hospital ever built in New Zealand is due to open late November. With another lockdown potentially looming, preparation and staff orientation might be delayed. 

More than 3000 staff are set to undergo a six-week orientation period before the opening of the hospital.

Canterbury District Health Board executive director of nursing Mary Gordon said the move to VOcid-19 Alert Level 2 could impact the staff orientation and delay the opening of the new building.

"Orientation is critically important for staff to familiarise themselves with the new physical environment and be able to practise common events such as transferring patients from ED to wards, ICU and operating theatre," Gordon said. 

She explained that orientation allows staff to practise emergency response situations in different areas of the new facility.

Group sizes for orientation were limited to 15 staff and two trainers under Level 2 restrictions. 

"A change of alert level, limiting group sizes to fewer than these numbers will impact onto the migration schedule and delay the DHB's move into the Christchurch Hospital Hagley building," Gordon said.

"Any move to a higher alert level is purely speculative and currently everything is going to plan."

Emergency Physician and Clinical Lead for CDHB hospitals' redevelopment, Rob Ojala, said staff had to be intimately familiar with the building before moving in.

"We want to make sure that the day we open, we have got it completely right," Ojala said. 

The hospital building was meant to open in March 2018 but was delayed. Outsourced surgeries have costed the CDHB about $20 million a year since then.

Delaying the move to the new building further will have an impact on the DHB's finances.

The new eight-floor, 60,000sqm facility has the largest radiology department in the southern hemisphere. It has 12 new operating theatres, a new emergency services unit and intensive care.