Shoalhaven District Hospital will get upgraded parking facilities and an extra 220 car parking spaces, with $9.84 million allocated in the NSW budget.
The lack of parking at the hospital has been an ongoing problem for a number of years, with South Coast MP Shelley Hancock and Kiama MP Gareth Ward delighted to secure the funding to start construction.
The pair have campaigned continually for two years to deliver on the election commitment to see improvements made to parking facilities.
“This much anticipated project will see the hospital’s parking challenges remedied and increase availability and convenience for patients and staff alike,” Mrs Hancock said.
“The recent review of the hospital’s masterplan finalised plans for additional parking following consultation with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, the hospital auxiliary, staff and patients we will soon be able to begin construction.”
But the question remains where and what sort of parking it will be?
There are two options - multi-storey which traditionally comes with fees and charges attached for those using the facilities; or a grade level car park, which means the majority of the Nowra Park reserve (Recreation Ground) next to the hospital would have to be utilised.
“Since the hospital was redeveloped more than a decade ago the community has endured inadequate parking,” Mrs Hancock said.
“A multi-storey car park would be constructed around the area of the existing car park.
“It would provide better access straight into the hospital and quicker access to areas like emergency.
“But government policy dictates that multi-level car parks are paid operations and Gareth and I have expressed our concerns about the often common exorbitant fees that are charged.
“We don't want that. We realise many of those in the community could not afford those fees. The government has introduced a number of major concessions for pensioners and those who are visiting long term sick patients.
“A grade level car park into the adjoining park would be a solution to the parkings costs, but it would take up most of the park, something that is also an issue for us.
“It also provides the problem of extensive uphill walking for people who are either going to hospital or visiting.
“It would be a real issue for older visitors and parents with prams having to make the uphill trek to the hospital. It would almost not be worth the effort to put the car park there.”
Mrs Hancock said now the money was available they wanted work to start as soon as possible.
“The Shoalhaven community has waited long enough,” she said.
“They funding is there, we want to turn the first sod as soon as possible.
“But a decision has to be made.
“The masterplan is not finalised, we have seen concept but they are not final and we have further ongoing discussion with NSW Health over this.
“We want the best deal for Shoalhaven residents and key health personnel who park there as well.”
Mr Ward said the funding was a win for the Shoalhaven.
“It will go a long way towards assisting patients, staff and visitors access the hospital campus,” he said.
“This is our community’s win. Thousands of residents, doctors, nurses, patients and hospital staff signed our petition which was the ammunition we needed to take up the fight in parliament.
“Understandably when a loved one is seriously ill the last thing family members need is added stress or having to worry about accessing the hospital.”
He said the construction of additional parking spaces would make visiting the hospital more convenient for everyone including visiting family members, the doctors, nurses and staff who are there every day, and the patients who present for medical attention.
The upgrade of parking facilities is part of a series of recent multi-million dollar works funded by the government including the $1.8 million redevelopment the emergency department, the $1.35 million reconfiguration of an 11 bed aged care unit, $1.5 million for the addition of an operating suite specialising in endoscopy services and $5.2 million for a second linear accelerator.