National | Andrew Little

New facilities open at Whāngārei hospital to help Northlanders cut travel to Auckland

Northlanders are gaining facilities for lifesaving heart procedures in Whāngārei.

This comes as Health Minister Andrew Little opened new operating theatres and a cardiac catheter laboratory at Whangārei Hospital today.

The cardiac catheter laboratory is expected to treat around 1000 patients a year, and the two new operating theatres bring the total number at Whangārei Hospital to eight.

The two projects - along with a new endoscopy suite opened last year - aims to help Northlanders who have had to travel to Auckland for procedures requiring these facilities.

"It is simply unacceptable that the place you live should determine what sort of healthcare you get,” Little said at the opening in Whangārei today.

“These new facilities aim to cut patient waiting times, reduce the need for Northland residents to travel to Auckland for treatment, free up capacity and ensure people can get the care they need when they need it.”

Other projects include the Bay of Islands Hospital redevelopment, Kaitaia Hospital remediation, a Linear Accelerator bunker and equipment at Whangārei Hospital to provide radiation treatment for people with cancer, and buses to provide mobile surgical and lithotripsy services.

Both new facilities at Whāngārei Hospital are due to be operational by July this year.

New facilities, new era

Northland District Health Board chair Harry Burkhardt said patients requiring access to a cardiac catheter laboratory have had to travel to Auckland, irrespective of where they live in Northland.

"Our challenge has always been to ensure that a patient receives the same standard of care locally as he or she would have been received had they lived in a large city with direct access to a tertiary institution, despite "the tyranny of distance".

Once the laboratory and theatres are fully operational in July, Burkhardt said the board would be working toward fulfilling its obligations to deliver health equity and providing the same level of care to everyone in the region.

Northland District Health Board chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said the new cardiac catheter laboratory project wasn't just about having the facility in Northland, it had a much broader vision, which was, “Build it, and they will come.”

"This new facility will be a quantum change in the way care is delivered to patients and means Northland is now an attractive option for cardiologists with specialist skills to come and be a part of a redeveloped service and contribute to the delivery of healthcare for Northlanders."