A top Canterbury paediatrician says she is not confident the DHB will find the money anytime soon to staff the new children's units.
Dr Clare Doocey is upset that hospital emergency care for children in Christchurch will not be moving into a brand new, purpose-built facility.
The new $500m Hagley hospital block has been built with dedicated units for children within the emergency department and intensive care.
But financial troubles at the DHB mean children will still in most cases have to be treated alongside adults, with three units at the block set to be mostly unstaffed.
Dr Doocey told Morning Report the new units were crucial for children, who can become frightened in the hospital setting where they're faced with unfamiliar people and sometimes painful procedures.
"We have worked really hard to design these units that are specifically for children so that we can reduce any potential stress that coming to hospital causes.
"Sometimes the sights and sounds that adults produce are scary for children. There's also been a change to the high-care area where paediatrics and intensive care were to work together and children requiring really high levels of care will need to go into the adult units in that space."
Senior clinicians have said it was "disappointing" and that they and hospital executives were now working out how to mitigate the risks of overcrowding in the emergency department, and of having to channel more patients into hospital inpatient wards.
Dr Doocey was also anxious about a review on a decision for the children's units, due three months after the buildings are occupied.
"We're in a very dynamic situation, and we've been in a marathon developing these units over a 10-year period and the finish line has moved.
"It is upsetting for us because it has been such a long journey and I know all the doctors and nurses who work at the hospital, they want the children to have the best care and we see first hand what it is like to be in hospital as a child."
Dr Doocey said while more than 100,000 children living in Canterbury could benefit from the new building, the current system was still providing the best care it could to young people.
"I just want to reassure people that we will be providing care to children as we do now, it's just that children who present to the emergency department, the purpose-built facility where they would have gone to won't be operational on day one."
However, she remained "hopeful over time... to be able to use them as intended."