Honouring Blair Vining’s birthday

13 May 2020

Southland Charity Hospital concept plans released on Blair Vining’s 40th birthday

On Wednesday May 13, 2020, Blair Vining should have been celebrating his 40th birthday.

The day before New Zealand emerges from Level 3 of its COVID-19 response, the Vining family’s tribute to their husband and father is particularly poignant.

Why? Because Blair’s legacy, the development of the Southland Charity Hospital, has leapt several paces closer to becoming a reality.

The Southland Charity Hospital project, propelled into existence during Blair Vining’s epic fight and tireless campaign to ensure all Kiwis have equal access to cancer care, has become ever more tangible, thanks to the release of its much-anticipated concept plans.

Managed by Boyd Wilson and the team at Invercargill-based Bonisch Consultants, the concept plans for the Southland Charity Hospital are an incredible way for the family to honour Blair on his birthday, his wife Melissa Vining says. Blair lost his battle with bowel cancer in October 2019.

“Marking what would have been Blair’s milestone birthday this year is fraught with sadness,” Melissa says.

“It’s incredibly tough to have this big, special day that should have been full of celebration, and should have been an opportunity for our family to look towards the next stage of our lives together, now looming without Blair here.

“It’s particularly difficult because of the global crisis we are in with COVID-19, which means we are unable to share this day with our support network of friends and family. Our daughters, Della-May and Lilly, and I are full of gratitude for everybody who has worked so hard to get the Southland Charity Hospital to the point it is now at today. Seeing Blair’s dream start to become a reality means so much to us this year. These concept drawings are a reminder of everything Blair fought for, and they make this project feel much more real.”

The public lent a huge source of support to Blair in his campaign for an end to the “postcode lottery” and his battle to ensure all New Zealanders were able to access adequate cancer treatment, she says.

“Seeing Blair’s dreams one step closer to reality of course reduced me to tears. It’s a reminder of everything he dedicated his life to, and the people who put their hands up to help him. Seeing the logos designed by Phil and the team at Back9 Creative, all the details like the operating theatre and recovery room, the whanau room – all the things Blair dreamed of, in pictures in front of our eyes, brings the girls and I so much joy.

“When I see the concept drawings of the hospital, I see all the love and support of the Southland community. That’s what brought it to life.”

The project was buoyed by the generosity of the ILT, which gifted a building and land package to the Southland Charity Hospital in February.

Boyd Wilson, of Bonisch Consultants, led the preparation of the concept drawings.

“The building gifted by ILT really was a fantastic blank canvas for the Southland Charity Hospital project, and it’s a gift that has really given the project a huge head-start in terms of actually coming to fruition,” he says.

Steps undertaken to date had included assessing the site suitability of a handful of potential buildings for the hospital, meeting with Dr Phil Bagshaw of the Canterbury Charity Hospital to discuss requirements for the facility in the south, and working with the team to develop the concept plans. Next steps would include the preparation of the resource consent application, as well as developing detailed design plans, he says.

The concept for the hospital had paid particular attention to creating a multi-purpose facility designed with the future in mind: for instance, the operating theatre has been designed to the same standard and size as a full-scale operating theatre that could be used for more intensive surgeries, rather than the exploratory procedures the Southland Charity Hospital intends to initially perform. Provision has also been made for a dental suite.

“The needs of the hospital next year may not be the same needs it has in 10 years, so it was vital that we developed a building that would evolve alongside the needs of the community,” Wilson says.

It was pleasing to be able to present the concept plans to not only the Southland Charity Hospital Trust but to the Vining family, he says.

“The plans are more than words, they’re more than talk – it’s the next step, and it’s becoming more real.”

The Southland Charity Hospital is an enduring legacy to Blair. At his memorial service, a farewell video from Blair made clear how much the hospital’s development meant to him (video attached). After bidding “sayonara people”, Blair urged Kiwis to support the project.

“These things are going to save lives, and it’s really important to me,” he said.

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