The planned $438 million expansion of Shoalhaven District Hospital has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District CEO Margot Mains told Wednesday's nights' public meeting, organised by the Shoalhaven Hospital Action Group (SHAG) who are pushing for the hospital to be relocated to a new more centralised, greenfield site, moving the hospital would "significantly increase the cost of the project."
"Planning for expanding the current site has been ongoing for more than a decade," she said.
She said part of the long-term planning for the current site included almost $65 million in upgrades being undertaken.
That includes the establishment of the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre ($31.3 million), a multi-level car park ($11.6m), sub acute mental health unit ($10m), emergency department refurbishment and endoscopy unit ($5m) and GP Superclinic ($7m).
"Relocating the hospital to a new site outside of Nowra would significantly increase the cost of the project, due to the additional land acquisition and development costs," she said.
"The cost of establishing on-site services such as utilities and the need to re-establish clinical services from the current site."
Ms Mains told the meeting a clinical services plan for the expansion had been completed, master planning for the site was continuing, with first site works set to start this year.
"Early work is expected to start on the site this year including ground and services investigations, a site office will be established in the coming months which will allow our project team members to be more accessible to staff and the community," she said.
"The draft master plan is due for release in the next couple of months and we'll be asking the community its views on the plan
"We will have a multi-pronged approach to informing and consulting with the community, including information sessions, pop-up stands, newsletters and social media and website."
The meeting was told the upgrade would provide the majority of emergency, critical care, acute, sub-acute, non-admitted services locally, reducing the need to transfer patients to Wollongong and Sydney.
"It will make the campus more self-sufficient and reduce the need for patients to travel outside of the Shoalhaven for treatment," Ms Mains said.
"And improve equity of access to services for the Shoalhaven population and have the physical capacity to manage future increases in demand."
The new and expanded services plan for Shoalhaven Hospital includes cardiology services, including a dedicated ward, diagnostic centre and coronary care unit.
Increased surgical capacity, more operating theatres and surgical beds.
MRI imaging and nuclear medicine will be introduced.
A larger emergency department and enhanced intensive care unit.
Expanded mental health services, including acute inpatient units.
Expanded ambulatory care centre and advanced renal dialysis unit, along with new rehabilitation and palliative care services
Ms Mains explained how hospital sites and decisions on expansion were made.
"Site identification is undertaken based on criteria including population growth, local demographics, health services, transport and other services. Also considered is location, ease of access and clinical services," she said.
"The current site meets the requirements of these critical criteria."
Ms Mains said the ISLHD would take away a lot of things from the meeting.
"We heard what residents said about the issues they've got," she said.
"We've heard about the importance of the park [Nowra Park], and we want to pay homage to that history of the park.
"We've heard about the tree and are well aware of that major tree which is very important and certainly our planning will take that into account.
"The other issues about timely access, the need for increased services and we definitely need increased services and what's really exciting is this plan will double many of the services being provided.
"We can expedite it and it can happen within the next four to five years. We need that capacity now, so that's why we are continuing to plan so we can better meet the needs of the Nowra community."