The state government has announced it will use a greenfield site to build a new ‘state-of-the-art’ hospital for the Tweed at a cost of half a billion dollars.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced yesterday there would be provision in the 2017-18 Budget for funding of up to $534 million for the new regional hospital.
Mr Barilaro said the new hospital would greatly improve health services for the region, which is forecast to grow by more than 40 per cent to 128,000 people by 2031.
‘The Tweed Shire is the latest area to benefit from the NSW Government’s pledge to enhance regional health services as part of a record hospital-building boom,’ Mr Barilaro said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that senior clinicians consulted during the planning process and lobbying by Nationals Tweed MP Geoff Provest helped form the decision to build a new hospital in the area, given the constraints of the current site.
‘At Geoff’s invitation I’ve met with the Medical Staff Council at Tweed Hospital to hear exactly what they need to continue delivering excellent patient care – and this new hospital will deliver just that.’
The government said in a media release that the hospital would ‘likely include’: more overnight beds; more operating theatres; a larger emergency department; an integrated cancer care service; and enhanced cardiac care services.
Scant on detail
But the inclusion of the word ‘likely’ sparked a warning from the opposition that it could be ‘another National Party stalling trick’ to ‘give false hope to the community’.
ALP shadow health spokesperson Walt Secord said: ‘The Nationals have been twisting and turning for the last six years. Every budget the community gets excited about a new promise and then nothing happens.’
‘The north coast is expecting a population explosion and deserves a proper hospital to meet the community’s needs,’ Mr Secord said
The opposition added the announcement was ‘scant on detail’.
‘It did not have information on: the hospital site; the future of the Murwillumbah Hospital and the future of the current Tweed Hospital site; the funding model for the hospital, including whether or not it will be a privatised model, a Private-Public Partnership like four other regional hospitals or a fully publically funded hospital; and when construction will begin and the final completion date,’ Labor said in a media statement.
Those concerns were echoed by the Health Services Union (HSU), which represents non medical staff working at the hospital.
HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the announcement of an Expression of Interest (EOI) process raised the prospect of privatisation
‘Yesterday’s announcement has given Tweed residents and health workers some hope that better hospital facilities are on the way,’ Mr Hayes said.
‘Making plans, however, is just the first step, and the HSU is will be keeping up the pressure on the state government to turns these plans into reality.
‘We’re also seeking a rock solid guarantee that the upgrade is not a front for privatising the hospital,’ Mr Hayes said.
But Tweed Greens mayor Katie Milne has unresevedly welcomed the new hospital, appearing on-site with Mr Barilaro, Mr Hazzard, Mr Provest and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet for the announcement.
‘We’re very excited, it’s a huge announcement and great news for the Tweed,’ Cr Milne said.
She praised the efforts of local clinicians and in particular, Dr Ian McPhee, who had campaigned tirelessly for increased services at the hospital since 2010.
‘Having new services such as specialist oncology and cardiac units would be welcome additions and would mean that many people living locally and dealing with life-threatening and chronic illnesses can be treated locally and not have to travel south to Lismore or north to Brisbane or the Gold Coast University Hospital,’ she said.
‘A $534 million investment to the region will also bring a raft of economic benefits which will result in significant jobs being created over the four years of construction, as well as the ongoing employment which will be created through increased beds, medical units and the varying services required to support a hospital of this size,’ Mayor Milne said.
The government says an Expression of Interest and site selection process to identify the most suitable site for the new hospital will commence ‘shortly’.
Over the coming months, the project team will work with staff and clinicians to understand how services will be delivered at the new hospital.
This will determine the project design and construction program, which should be finalised mid-next year.