5 Jun 2014

Coast welcomes hospital overhaul

8:34 am on 5 June 2014

A major revamp of medical facilities on the West Coast will help the region attract and keep experienced doctors, the region's chief medical officer says.

A new 60-bed hospital in Greymouth will have an intensive care unit, an emergency department, three operating theatres and a bigger maternity unit. Westport will get an integrated family health centre.

Hokitika resident Coleen Freitas is relieved the upgrade is finally happening, and that West Coasters won't have to make the trip over the alpine pass to Christchurch Hospital so often.

"To go to Christchurch in an ambulance is very rocky," she said. "The road was closed for three days, or two days, we can't always get over to Christchurch so having a hospital in Greymouth is a plus."

West Coasters look forward to fewer journeys over the pass to Christchurch Hospital.

West Coasters look forward to fewer journeys to Christchurch Hospital. Photo: PHOTO NZ

West Coast chief medical officer Carol Atmore said the $67 million in government funding for the new facilities in Greymouth and Westport will transform service provision to the region.

The health board has long struggled with attracting and keeping experienced doctors on the Coast, and Dr Atmore said the upgrades will go a long way towards attracting more senior medical staff.

Some women in Buller are worried there still won't be enough maternity provision, even though there will be a $8 million dollar integrated family health centre with 10 overnight beds.

One Westport mother told Radio New Zealand the concern was there was still no dedicated birthing unit in Westport, and, for a woman in labour, travelling to Greymouth was not ideal given the weather and state of the roads.

However the DHB's programme director, Michael Frampton, said one bed would be set aside for birthing, though at other times it would be used by other patients.