Sensible to investigate PPPs for hospitals

Health Minister Tony Ryall has asked the Canterbury District Health Board to investigate Public Private Partnerships for the $600 million rebuild of hospitals in Christchurch.

“This could include design, build and management of buildings, and some non clinical support services – while the DHB maintains full responsibility for delivering public health services,” says Mr Ryall.

“The process will explore whether or not a PPP may suit the Canterbury redevelopment. In the current economic situation, the Government expects DHBs to look outside the square when it comes to achieving value for money in capital projects.

“There is already a wide range of private involvement in the public health service – and similar public private infrastructure partnerships have worked well overseas.”

A decision on any public private partnership would be considered as part of the business case.

Considering PPPs is sensible, reasonable and moderate when so much money is involved and there is such an imperative to reduce debt.

But the PSA doesn’t see it that way:

“The Health Minister talks about future proofing Canterbury’s health infrastructure, but a PPP to build a new hospital, manage it and run non-clinical support services will be a black hole in which to pump tax payers’money,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA is basing its criticism on British examples. It should look closer to home.

Oamaru Hospital is owned and run by a Waitaki District Health Services, a Local Authority Trading Enterprise. It provides publicly funded health services for the people of the district and also offers some private services.

It’s been operating that way for more than 10 years.

The PSA might prefer to have scarce money tied up in bricks and mortar rather than paying wages and providing services. The government is more concerned to ensure that every public dollar is spent wisely and where it would do most good and using PPPs to build hospitals could be one way of doing that.

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