The push for a new greenfield site for Shoalhaven District Hospital has progressed to state parliament, with Independent MLC Justin Field raising the issue before the house saying he believes there is still time for a greenfield site to be approved and the government should "meaningfully engage" with the local community to see what it wants.
"The NSW Government made a pre-election commitment in late 2018 of $434 million to redevelop Shoalhaven District Hospital in Nowra," Mr Field said.
"Any investment in hospital services in our region is certainly welcomed but a growing number of people in my community are raising concerns about the capacity of the current site to accommodate the much needed expansion of services to cope with the growth that is planned for our region in the future."
Mr Field painted the picture of the hospital's current location saying it was "hard up against the Shoalhaven River, it's got some small parkland around it, the showground area and then there is the urban fringe of the town that buts up against the CBD".
If the Shoalhaven hospital redevelopment is not due to be completed for seven to eight years there is time for the community to be meaningfully engaged in discussion of whether we want a redevelopment of the current hospital or to redirect that money to a new greenfield siteIndependent MLC Justin Field
"It's a very inaccessible place for emergency vehicles, patients and visitors who want to go to the hospital. It causes congestion," he said.
"It's not the sort of place that we should be planning an expanded hospital. In fact there is no room on the site to do just that.
"There is a growing mood within the community to reassess whether or not a redeveloped hospital is the right approach or should we be looking for a new greenfield hospital site in the region.
"The current locations leaves southern Shoalhaven residents in particular, well outside the best-practice for hospital services."
He said this year's budget is the first time funding has been allocated for the project - "just $4 million and the budget shows the project is not due for completion until 2028".
"I contend that if the hospital redevelopment is not due to be completed for seven to eight years there is time for the community to be meaningfully engaged in discussion of whether we want a redevelopment of the current hospital or to redirect that money to a new greenfield site that providers fairer access across the region, is a more suitable site, more able to incorporate a wider range of services and be able to expand to meet future needs."
Mr Field said he expressed such sentiments to the treasurer before the budget, to the health minister and the local member.
"I understand the government has made it very clear post budget that they're restating their commitment to the redevelopment of the site but if it's not going to be completed for eight years let's get real," he said.
The government has made it very clear post budget that they're restating their commitment to the redevelopment of the site but if it's not going to be completed for eight years let's get real.Independent MLC Justin Field
"We have an opportunity to rethink what is in the long term interest of our community. The impact of delivering hospital services during a redevelopment is a matter of serious concern.
"While I know a lot of those who work in the hospital sector cannot speak publicly, privately I'm hearing concerns being expressed about the ability to deliver health services during a major redevelopment are certainly being challenged.
"My community faces some form of redevelopment in four or five years' time which will impact significantly.
"A new greenfield site does not have the expense of coordinating the build around existing infrastructure and services and makes it a much more effective spend.
"The $4 million allocated in the budget, according to the government release after the budget is to go towards the purchasing the park next to the current hospital to facilitate expansion.
"The loss of a significant community space has not been subject to any meaningful community consultation.
"It is proof the government is trying to fit its round development in a square hole."
He said the government built a larger greenfield hospital in the Tweed with not much more money than is being promised in the Shoalhaven and in less time.
The loss of a significant community space has not been subject to any meaningful community consultation. It is proof the government is trying to fit its round development in a square hole.Independent MLC Justin Field
"Why is that option not available to the Shoalhaven?"
"The government says planning is already well underway and that the discussion will delay the delivery of upgraded hospital services.
"I think taking six months or a year to engage the community meaningfully should not delay a completed hospital in 2028 as is the government's plan.
"I encourage the government and Labor to get behind the community down here which is calling for a reconsideration of the issue.
"The health and hospital needs of the Shoalhaven are only growing.
"Redeveloping a hospital on a restrained site with few opportunities for growth seems short-sighted in the extreme.
"The community wants to have a debate - I ask the treasurer and health minister to look more closely at the decision for the Shoalhaven."
Mr Field said he is backing the campaign to build a new greenfield hospital for the Shoalhaven.
"The NSW Government has promised a redevelopment of the current hospital but it is not going to be completed until 2028 and so far just $4 million has been committed to the project in the state budget," he said.
"Redeveloping the current site will cost almost as much as a new hospital, will mean years of disruption to the provision of hospital services and will come with all the limitations to future expansion of services and size and traffic issues in its current location.
The government built a larger greenfield hospital in the Tweed with not much more money than is being promised in the Shoalhaven and in less time. Why is that option not available to the Shoalhaven?Independent MLC Justin Field
"A new greenfield hospital will offer an opportunity for more value for money and to build a hospital with new and expanded services on a site able to expand for the future needs of our region.
"There is time to rethink this decision. If a redeveloped hospital won't be built until 2028, let's spend six months or a year reconsidering a greenfield option through a genuine community consultation to fully explore the opportunity cost of the current redevelopment plans.
"If $434 million is going to be spent on hospital services for our region, let's make sure it's the right investment for the future."
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