Covid-19: Health ministry yet to respond to requests for extra funding to boost ICU capacity

Health officials in Canterbury, Bay of Plenty and Waitematā asked for money to boost their intensive care unit (ICU) capacity weeks ago, but the Ministry of Health is yet to respond.

On October 18, the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) asked the Government to fund 21 additional ICU beds as authorities around the country prepare for the spread of Covid-19.

Nine of the 21 beds already exist in Christchurch’s Waipapa Hospital, but there is not enough money to staff them.

Bay of Plenty DHB development and commercial services executive director Jeff Hodson said the board requested $15.4m for 20 Coronary Care Unit (CCU) beds and six extra ICU beds in October.

* Health boards request funding for extra ICU beds as Covid-19 looms
* Intensive care unit beds number 34 for a population of more than 700,000
* Coronavirus: Christchurch Hospital’s 36-bed intensive care unit opening soon for outbreak

The board accelerated preparation of its business case for the beds at the request of the Ministry of Health, Hodson said.

The business case was still going through the ministry’s approval process.

The work is part of the ministry’s national pandemic response planning. It will re-purpose a section of Tauranga Hospital’s orthopaedic ward to provide additional oxygen supply and improved air management for environments in the ward, and areas in the ICU and CCU.

In Waitematā, health officials submitted a business case for $20m to add an ICU at Waitakere Hospital, board documents show.

All three DHBs are yet to get a response from the Ministry of Health

Canterbury health officials are waiting to hear back from the Government on its request for extra money to boost its hospitals’ ICU capacity.


Canterbury health officials are waiting to hear back from the Government on its request for extra money to boost its hospitals’ ICU capacity.

A ministry spokesman last month confirmed it had received “individual proposals” from Canterbury, Bay of Plenty and Waitematā health boards for additional ICU capacity and that a decision could be expected “in coming weeks”.

On Wednesday, the ministry said: “Decisions on this matter are yet to be finalised.”

It did not answer questions on whether the requests were treated with urgency, or when a response was expected.

Nationally, there are 284 resourced ICU/high dependency unit beds in public hospitals, and this can be increased to about 550 beds if needed, a ministry spokesman said last month.

The CDHB has 36 physical beds within the ICU and children’s high care areas in Waipapa.

It has 54 negative pressure rooms (isolation rooms often used for people with infectious illnesses) across its facilities, including 38 in Christchurch Hospital.

Work to upgrade a 33-bed ward dedicated to treat Covid-19 positive patients is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

The work, at the former acute medical assessment centre in the Parkside hospital building, is being managed by the Ministry of Health.

Stuff reported in August that a $250 million plan to renovate the outdated and earthquake-damaged hospital wing was downgraded to a lower cost – a figure health authorities have refused to release publicly.

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