New hospital building, new health policy, new health targets to benefit New Zealanders

Kia ora koutou katoa – it’s a pleasure to join you here at Tōtara Haumaru on Auckland’s North Shore

I would like to begin by acknowledging the many hands, over many years, that have been involved in the creation of this wonderful new facility Tōtara Haumaru, particularly those who are here today.

I also acknowledge Margie Apa, Health New Zealand's Chief Executive,  Dr Lester Levy, Chair of the Board, and the other Health NZ staff – particularly the clinicians and staff who work incredibly hard to care for our people.

I also greet and thank Dame Naida, Kaumatua Fraser Toi, and members of mana whenua Ngāti Whātua.

Can I thank the Well Foundation, He Kamaka Waiora, and all of the construction partners who have worked so hard 

And finally, my colleagues and local parliamentary representatives, Hon Simon Watts, Dan Bidois, and others.  

Access to services and better health outcomes

This $317 million new hospital facility has been a long time in the making.

Many people have advocated for and played a significant role in its planning and design, and the outcome is a testament to their work, their ambition and their vision.

Let’s reflect that in 2015, this started out as an elective surgical unit expansion addressing a 40 bed deficit at North Shore Hospital and has now evolved into a state-of-the-art, four-storey building which will be a platform for grown in the delivery of healthcare services across the region.

The key clinical features of Tōtara Haumaru include: 

Eight surgical theatre operating suites with dedicated pre-operative and recovery spaces

  • Four endoscopy rooms and recovery area
  • Five 30-bed wards
  • Greater numbers of isolation and negative pressure rooms
  • Ability for 60 of the in-patient beds to be converted to “pandemic mode”

I would also like to make special mention of the healing garden which was made possible through the support of the Well Foundation and community and which represents the contribution that healing environments make to overall health outcomes. 

As we can see, Tōtara Haumaru provides a modern, welcoming environment for patients and their whānau, delivering an improved experience and quality of care for them,   and a more productive, efficient model of care for the system. 

One of this Government’s core priorities is building a health system that is more efficient.  Our strong focus is on more timely access to quality healthcare and improving health outcomes.

Tōtara Haumaru will be an asset that works to deliver those priorities, as it serves the fast-growing northern region of New Zealand.

Health targets

The National Health Targets, which also come into effect on 1 July -- the same day Tōtara Haumaru opens -- will ensure our health system is delivering for all New Zealanders. 

The five targets are focused on faster cancer treatment, improved immunisation rates, shorter stays in ED, shorter wait times for first specialist assessments, and shorter times for elective treatment.

Having effective targets and reporting on them publicly will help identify where there needs to be improvement and aligns outcomes and accountability across a range of providers.

We know that achieving these targets will be tough and take some time. Some of them were tough for the previous government and will be tough for me also, but it is important to be ambitious. 

On Monday, we made a hugely significant and ambitious announcement about improving access to cancer medicines – one which links to our faster cancer treatment target.

Tōtara Haumaru will be equally significant for another target, improving access to elective treatment. 

Once fully operational, Tōtara Haumaru has the capacity to perform up to 8000 surgeries and 7500 endoscopy procedures each year, picking up on thousands of operations that previously had to be outsourced to the private sector. 

This opening also links to the Government Policy Statement on Health, released publicly earlier today. 

I see the GPS as the primary mechanism for the coalition Government to translate our expectations into action.  The GPS sets out five priority areas for the next three years:

Access – ensuring all New Zealanders have equitable access to the health care services they need, no matter where they live.

Timeliness – making sure all New Zealanders can access these services in a prompt and efficient way.

Quality – ensuring New Zealander’s health care and services are safe, easy to navigate, understandable and welcoming to users, and are continuously improving.

Workforce – having a skilled and culturally capable workforce who are accessible, responsive, and supported to deliver safe and effective health care. 

Infrastructure – ensuring the health system is resilient and has the digital and physical infrastructure it needs to meet people’s needs now and in the future.  

We will now focus resources and attention where the need is greatest and I look forward to collaborating with Māori who across a range of metrics have some of the highest need.

Phased approach 

As is always the case with large new hospital facilities, Tōtara Haumaru will be opened in stages, with theatres and wards brought online progressively as capacity, staffing and resourcing is scaled-up over time. 

During the first few months of operation, the focus will be on treating patients who would have received care in North Shore hospital’s main tower block and Elective Surgery Centre. 

Services will be shifted from both sites to enable specialties to be grouped together, promoting efficient functioning, and separating planned from acute surgery.   

The separation of planned and acute surgical care means patients won’t have planned surgeries deferred because of urgent cases coming into the hospital. 

This will also free up space in the main hospital over the winter peak period. 

By the end of the first quarter, I’m advised that four surgical theatres, two endoscopy suites, and two medical wards will be up and running in Tōtara Haumaru.  The team will also have the other four theatres ready to go-live as required for stage 2.   

There will be a scaling up of operating theatres and increased surgical volumes, with about 2,000 operations carried out in the first year.

As staffing and resource grows, Tōtara Haumaru will also be able to provide surgical care for highly complex cases. There will also be the transfer and upgrading of gynaecology services currently provided in the tower block to the new, state-of-the-art facility. 

We will see benefits for patients across the Northern Region and further afield. 

Tōtara Haumaru will be able to take regional referrals to balance demand and waiting times, and be able to provide capacity for patients waiting the longest in other areas across New Zealand.

Developing capacity

As you saw with this week’s announcement of a four-year, $604 million transformative funding boost for Pharmac to secure life-changing medications, this Government is absolutely committed to improving the health outcomes of all New Zealanders. This week’s announcement is in addition to the $1.77 billion fiscal cliff that we attended to with Pharmac. 

In Budget 2024, Health NZ received a record $16.68 billion pre-commitment in additional funding over the next three years, providing much more certainty for the path ahead. 

It’s the first time funding has been pre-committed over a three-year period, which will help Health NZ plan and deliver better services and make progress on the Government’s National Health Targets.

However, we also know we must also improve our current infrastructure.

While the opening of Tōtara Haumaru will be a massive boost to the north, we know that there is a lot more work to be done to improve our health system, and to ensure timely access to quality health care, as close to the home and the hapu as possible. 

Today, and tomorrow when the doors open, is an important milestone on that journey, and one that I know will make a real difference to the lives of many people. 

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge all the Health NZ team who contribute to the health system right across the motu. 

Together, you have continued to provide vital care for New Zealand’s population and strived to make improvements to the health system. 

Thank you all for the work you do every day to give the best possible care to patients and our communities. 

May this building enhance everyone’s lives. 

Kia ora! 


The GPS Health document can be found here