Building is planned to start on the long awaited replacement for Lismore Base Hospital’s (LBH) emergency department early next year.
The redevelopment, referred to as ‘Stage 3a’, will also include a new renal dialysis unit, a community consultation meeting at Lismore Workers Club heard last night.
It will be the largest investment ever made on a capital works project in Lismore and will almost quadruple the size of the emergency department.
The new facility will replace the hospital’s existing emergency area, which has been regularly full to capacity in recent years. Last month a man suffering a heart attack had to be treated on an ambulance trolley owing to a lack of bed space in the emergency ward.
At last night’s meeting it was parking, traffic flows and potential disruptions to services caused by the redevelopment that proved to be the major areas of community concern.
The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) hosted the evening, which saw a modest crowd preview the planning for the majority of Stage 3, and question the planners, Health Infrastructure.
CEO of NNSWLHD Chris Crawford said patients and clinicians needed better conditions and space, particularly in the emergency department (ED); renal dialysis services needed to be more purpose built and more operating theatres are required.
Mr Crawford said the development would allow hospital staff treat more patients and increase the quality of care with better facilities. The community will benefit as the new facilities will draw in people who want to live near a high quality hospital and more staff will be needed in a larger ED. He added that the construction stage would create additional employment.
The new ED increases in size from 650sqm to 2400sqm and will include 31 treatment spaces, a new emergency medical unit with 12 beds, emergency care fast track with six beds and expanded medical imaging capacity.
The new renal dialysis unit will have 18 beds and some peritoneal home training rooms. A new mortuary will be built and spaces in the current ED will be refurbished for community and primary care services.
Stage 3a will be a three storey structure on Uralba Street; level 1 will be the renal unit, level 2 the ED and level 3 will be the shell for future operating theatres. This level will also include footing and structures for further levels in future stages. To make Stage 3a possible, pathology, part of maternity and the mortuary units will be relocated to free up the space. This will then allow the hospital to bring onsite some community health services that have moved offsite.
‘Some community services are better delivered onsite as they can dovetail acute services,’ Mr Crawford said.
He commended the advocacy and support of MPs Janelle Saffin and Thomas George who secured the funding of $60.25 million from the federal government and $20 million from the state.
‘These funds will turn good plans into bricks and mortar and therefore services,’ he said. ‘This project will deliver some big outcomes, for patients, clinicians and the community.’
Acute services left behind
Health Infrastructure is a state body that was set up to bring specialists in architecture and building engineering to help NSW Health successfully build its capital works projects worth over $10 million. A key observation by Health Infrastructure noted that over the past ten years LBH has seen development in areas such as mental health and cancer care, but acute services have been left behind.
Project director Troy Harvey presented the plan with the aid of project manager Malcolm Naylor. The planning phase is now complete and, to date, over 120 user group meetings have been held for a full range of input, which has seen Health Infrastructure onsite since Feb 2012.
‘How we build a hospital is completely different from any other building type. It is all about the service linkages, which can be incredibly complex,’ Mr Harvey said.
‘To be fair, the LBH site is one of the most constrained and difficult sites that you come across in health services. There are a lot of factors working against us like gradients, ageing infrastructure and site boundaries.’
Health Infrastructure included the entire Stage 3 into their planning, which is predicated on forward thinking so current stages are readily expandable and future development can dovetail into it.
‘The big challenge for us is the level of growth anticipated in the future plans, something in the order of 130 extra inpatient beds, ED going from 12 to 31 beds, and big growth in other areas. We are not delivering this in Stage 3a but we have absolutely had to plan for this as we need this site to develop on a sustainable master plan and deliver a sustainable level of service, with the least amount of disruption.’
Mr Harvey anticipated the angst around the subject of parking. Residents in surrounding streets, right down to and including the Lismore Shopping Square area, regularly complain about hospital parking clogging up car parks. Patients and visitors to the hospital have long complained about limited and unavailable car parking and the sometime long trek uphill to access the hospital site.
MP Thomas George relayed the community frustrations.
‘I’ve been a representative since 1999 and we have been copping it and saying to look at the big picture and it will eventually be fixed up. Well I think people would like the car park before the hospital upgrade at times. That is how important parking is.’
Mr Harvey began addressing the parking issue by thanking Council for their helpful contribution to their integrated planning and explaining the stages of this component of development.
‘We estimate Stage 3a will place a further demand of 110 spaces so we are preparing a plan through Treasury for a multiple storey site, adjacent to the hospital on Uralba Street, which will be in stages,’ he said.
Mr Harvey was reluctant to declare possible sites and admitted that further funding would be needed.
A member of the audience questioned Mr Harvey about the increased demand in parking from contractors during the stage 3a redevelopment, who ‘sometimes need to park close to the gate, and who will beat everyone else to the parks’.
‘The initial stage is to offset spaces we are losing as part of our earlier works,’ Mr Harvey replied.
‘What we have done for the early works is written into the contractor’s contract,’ he said, ‘that they are not to occupy the hospital spots.’
Mr Naylor added, ‘… we are in talks with Council about utilising council owned land for construction parking’.
Mr Harvey continued by focusing on further solutions to the parking deficit.
‘We are discussing with Council about using some of the Uralba Street road reserves to expand the drop off area like an airport style drop off area. This will alleviate some of the parking issues.
‘We will also, with Council’s help, reline-mark parking spaces along part of Hunter Street and a few on Uralba Street, and aim to slow down traffic along both of these streets with 40km zones. Council modelling estimates that 25,000 to 30,000 cars per day travel along Uralba Street.’
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily, ‘… we have been working with Health Infrastructure from the beginning, particularly with offsite parking during the construction phase. Even today, council’s traffic committee are still looking at ways to alleviate parking pressures around the hospital. We have identified five parallel parks for instance that can change to angle parking which will increase to 13 parks.
‘It is regrettable to me that when the mental health units were built that there wasn’t a multistorey car park put on there. I look at that black tarmac parking area on the map and I think what a waste of space!’
Health service continuity is an integral part of the planning process. Health Infrastructure are commencing enabling works over the next month that will include interim pathology, maternity and mortuary units. The southern wing of the maternity unit will be relocated and no beds will be lost during redevelopment.
Lismore Base Hospital is seeking consumer/community members for a number of its committees
The Northern NSW Local Health District maintains a community engagement database to keep members informed of opportunities to be involved