Questions over the role that health minister Brad Hazzard played in ruling out the current Tweed Hospital site for redevelopment have been raised by Tweed Shire councillor Chris Cherry. Questions have also been raised in the NSW parliament this week by Greens health spokesperson Dawn Walker MP.
‘As a councillor, I was involved in the community group feeding back to Health Infrastructure during the extended time for consideration of alternative sites,’ said councillor Cherry.
‘The community had identified Kings Forest, Chinderah and the current Tweed Hospital site for further investigation.
‘After we had given the three preferred community sites as alternatives to examine, Health Infrastructure said the Minister had ruled the current Tweed Heads hospital site out. Brad Hazzard had said no. They did a basic comparison but didn’t look at the site properly as an option.’
MP Dawn Walker has said in parliament that the government are ignoring their own development strategies.
‘The government’s own North Coast Regional Plan identifies the growth precinct for the region’s health services at the current Tweed Hospital site, yet they continue to ignore their own strategy and build the new hospital on the precious red soils of Cudgen Plateau’, she said.
‘In March 2017, less than three months before the announcement of the new hospital, there was no mention of the new development in the region’s Local Health District board meeting. The minutes note that they were awaiting formal confirmation of fully funding the redevelopment of the existing Tweed Heads Hospital. It’s clear that something has gone astray.’
Councillor Cherry believes that the siting of the new Tweed Hospital has become a political football rather than a process looking for the best solution for the region and the community it serves.
Commenting on the Tweed Hospital community reference group’s final feedback meeting with Health Infrastructure, councillor Cherry said, ‘What is disappointing is that they had already made a decision. We asked at the meeting about when the Minister would be making the decision, and Health Infrastructure representatives said they “were not at liberty to say”, yet they had obviously alerted the Tweed Daily News about their decision that afternoon.’
Denied by HI
Health Infrastructure have denied the allegations, telling Echonetdaily that, ‘A robust assessment process of over 50 sites was undertaken, informed by advice from independent expert advisors and the whole process was overseen by an independent probity advisor.
‘The recommendations from the assessment process were endorsed through the project governance structure prior to the minister for health confirming the selected site,’ said a Health Infrastructure spokesperson.
‘The recommendation that the “brownfield option” should not be shortlisted due to a number of deficiencies against the assessment criteria was endorsed through the project governance structure and did not involve the minister in any way.’
Government ignores calls to redevelop the existing site
While Labor have come out in favour of the Kings Forest site the Greens have moved a motion calling on the NSW Government to redevelop the existing Tweed Heads Hospital at Tweed Heads.
‘There is a lot of infrastructure built around the current site,’ said councillor Cherry.
‘A lot of people have settled there to be close to the hospital. This is a decision that will impact a lot of people’s lives.’
However according to Ms Walker ‘the minister for primary industries has confirmed in parliament that the government are ploughing ahead with site acquisition and the planning application process for a new hospital at Cudgen, despite acknowledging that it’s categorised as State Significant Farmland under the Northern Rivers Farmland Protection Project 2005.
‘It’s appalling that the National Party have sold out local farmers with their plans to concrete over the fertile farmland on the Cudgen Plateau and push for intense development on our food producing land,’ said Ms Walker.