Gunnedah Shire Council mayor Jamie Chaffey is “appalled” the community’s new hospital will be reduced to a fraction of what had been promised.

It follows a brief to council from NSW Health earlier this week with a revised scope and design which no longer assured all the services previously promised.

Prior to the election, NSW Labor had pledged to carry out the $53 million redevelopment as committed to the then Coalition government.

“Labor has absolutely no plans to scrap hospitals that are already under way, the community needs and deserves improvements to local health facilities,” former NSW Labor candidate for Tamworth Kate McGrath said at the time.

The hospital was originally built in 1916 and Cr Chaffey said it required more than the “band aids” it had received in the past.

The new scope includes a new acute service building with an emergency department, a new maternity, birthing and inpatient unit, and a refurbished entry but Cr Chaffey believed the redevelopment had been cut to a third of the previous design.

“Where is our promised infusion unit that will provide renal dialysis and oncology services? Where is the new theatre and day surgery? Where are the new medical imaging, new back of house, new plant room, new community health facilities, dental services, new front of house and the landscape we have all seen artwork of?” Cr Chaffey said.

Council was assured that 48 beds would be accommodated in the new hospital plan but there is doubt this is still the case.

“It was quite clear that there was not enough money to deliver on the plan as it currently sits,” Cr Chaffey said.

“It is very frustrating and very disappointing for a community that have been so engaged for so long.”

A NSW Health Infrastructure spokesperson said the updated design was due to the escalation of building costs.

“The global escalation of building costs faced by the construction industry has resulted in an updated design that will prioritise areas of clinical need while ensuring the ability for future expansion,” the spokesperson said.

“All other existing health services will continue to operate onsite within the existing infrastructure, including medical imaging, dental, community health, outpatient services, operating theatre, day surgery, administration areas and back-of-house services. The community will continue to have access to renal services at Tamworth Hospital, as part of the existing service arrangements with the Hunter New England hospital network.” 

“Consultation with staff, patients and the community on the design for the project will continue in July and August and this feedback will assist to finalise the design.”

Gunnedah Shire councillors unanimously supported a call for bipartisan agreement in June last year. 

In response to the Gunnedah Times this week, a spokesperson for NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said: “The NSW government remains committed to the redevelopment of Gunnedah Hospital, and importantly, there has been no cut in the funding allocated towards this project.”

Cr Chaffey said Monday’s virtual meeting implied it was unlikely Gunnedah would receive what had originally been promised and was unsure of what this will mean for the timeline of the hospital redevelopment. 

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson is also calling on the Labor government to fully fund the hospital and said that people should not be penalised because they live in regional NSW.

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