Southern Charity Hospital building inspired by cancer sufferer Blair Vining complete

  • 02/04/2024

It's taken several years, thousands of volunteer hours and a whole lot of emotional hard slog – but the Southern Charity Hospital is now built.

The project was inspired by cancer sufferer Blair Vining who struck a chord with many Kiwis when he pointed out how patchy health care is in the regions.

The Southland Charity Hospital Trust was formed in 2019 following Blair's battle with terminal bowel cancer. After his diagnosis in 2018, the father-of-two was told he had just weeks to live - and due to the severely under-resourced health services in Southland, it was unlikely he would be able to see a specialist before the cancer took his life. 

After discovering the extent of the inequity in the region, Vining launched his campaign for more accessible cancer care. He lost his battle with the disease in October 2019.

Construction began in May 2021, and almost three years later, Vining's dream has almost come true as the building is complete and will soon be open for use.

"We've got a real hospital! So, so stoked," Blair's wife Melissa Vining told AM.

The hospital is for people denied access to public health services and don't have the financial means to go private.

"We are filling the gap of unmet need which is pretty horrific throughout New Zealand," Melissa said.

A clinical committee would recommend to the board what the greatest unmet need in the region is and the hospital would look at offering those procedures. The hospital will start by providing colonoscopies and dental care.

Medical professionals will volunteer their time to perform the procedures. 

"The intent is that as and when medical professionals have capacity, that they would give their time and we work around their busy schedules," Melissa said.

Once the code of compliance signoffs are done and the equipment tested, the hospital will be opened.

However, Melissa added that we shouldn't live in a country where charity hospitals are needed.

"We can't forget that the politicians need to fund the health system correctly," she said. "This shouldn't be needed but I'm so proud of everyone who has given up their time, made donations, played rugby, done many things to support us to get this hospital built and to fulfil Blair's dying wish."

For those wanting to donate to the hospital click here.