RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post
Plans to move Wellington Children's Hospital into an old tower block have been scrapped because patients would be worse off.
In a memo from clinical director Graeme Lear and child health managers, staff were told the proposal to shift to the 30-year-old Grace Neill Block was no longer considered workable because of "a serious and insoluble" lack of storage and cramped rooms, which meant parents would have been unable to stay with their sick children.
"We will not be able to provide a physical facility `significantly better than what we have now' which has always been the bottom line in any proposal to move from the current children's hospital."
The 11-storey Grace Neill Block, being vacated by women's health and maternity services this week, was targeted for demolition with the opening of the new regional hospital. But Capital and Coast District Health Board was forced back to the drawing board when it was revealed the new hospital would not be big enough.
Last April, interim chief executive Derek Milne announced plans to retain Grace Neill to house child health services, and convert the children's hospital into offices.
The latest plan involves moving child outpatients to Grace Neill to free up space in the existing children's hospital, and bringing forward plans to build a new facility within 10 years.
It depends, however, on "the availability of government funding, and this in turn depends on the ability of Capital and Coast to emerge from the financial troubles of the last few years".
The board faces a $70 million budget blowout this year.
The current children's hospital was built in 1988, but has struggled to accommodate services, including child cancer.
It is believed a lack of progress on creating a separate unit was one factor in the resignations of the hospital's previous two child cancer specialists, which meant the hospital was unable to accept new cancer patients for 15 months.
A board spokesman said the change of plans would not jeopardise redevelopment of child cancer services.
Paediatric oncology has had its own "designated area" within the children's hospital for a year and management was working with the two paediatric oncologists to improve its layout.
Negotiations are under way with a third specialist to join the team.
Thirteen-year-old Joshua Wood, who has leukaemia, said he was impressed with the food and the nurses at the hospital. "But one thing I don't like is being so close to other kids with contagious diseases that I can catch because my immune system is not working so well."