$25 mil Starship Hospital upgrade will benefit thousands

By Jessica Tyson

Thousands of children and their families are expected to benefit from an upgrade to Auckland's Starship hospital announced today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

As part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, $25 million will be funded to Starship hospital's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit Project. The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) treats around 1100 children each year.

Ngāti Porou parents Michaela Beach and Vincent Moeke have been staying in PICU with their seven-month-old twins, Sarge and Bycie, and say the upgrade is overdue.

The twins were born in Gisborne Hospital where they experienced breathing problems.

“So they transferred us here to look into it and it turned out that they had narrow airways,” their māmā Michaela says.

After staying there for six months, Michaela says she has noticed how PICU needed more space for other long terms patients.

“It gets full quite easily. It could have no-one in the unit one day and then the next day it'll be completely packed. We had to go into one little room, one single room with the twins and it was so tight because the unit was so packed."

The $25 million in funding will go towards the design and build of four Intensive Care Unit beds and eight High Dependency Unit beds within the existing PICU footprint.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns says, “PICU is the area where they’ll go for elective cardiac surgery for instance or everything from liver transplants to spinal treatment. As our population grows their needs grow.”

With an ever-growing population and the increasing complexity of cases, demand on intensive care beds has reached unprecedented levels,” Starship Director,” Dr Michael Shepherd says.

“With only 22 beds to service more than 1.25 million children, our paediatric intensive care unit is under increasing pressure,” Dr Shepherd continues.

“We are now facing a critical shortage, which means we often have two, or fewer, available beds, leaving limited capacity for emergency admissions. Staff often have to postpone planned surgeries and are placing beds in between existing ICU beds to cope.”

Starship is one of many hospitals getting financial support as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

“We've had over a billion in health expenditure already to fix mental health units, Taranaki hospital, Waikato, fixing the mental health units there, Counties Manukau we're recladding. Also we have new builds in Dunedin. We are moving at pace but there is more to do,” the PM explains.

It’s also a time moving forward for the twins and their whānau who will get to go home in six weeks.

"Getting transferred back to Gisborne, staying there and hopefully get us a whare and be able to go home and be one little family," their māmā concludes.