$25m kick-start for new Lower Hunter hospital

An artist’s impression of the proposed new hospital.EDITORIAL: Money for Maitland hospital

CONSTRUCTION of the Lower Hunter’s new hospital will start in the next term of a re-elected Baird government, with $25million pledged to kick-start the project worth more than $400million.

In the Liberal Party’s strongest pitch yet to hang on to the seat of Maitland, Health Minister Jillian Skinner will join candidate Steve Thomson to announce on Thursday that $25million has been set aside from the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund to start ground works at the Metford site for the new hospital.

It will also spend $3.8million on a new ambulance station in the area, which could be built either near the new hospital or as a major upgrade of the existing Rutherford station.

Ms Skinner said residents would soon be able to see work start on the project.

It is needed because of the mounting pressure the region’s growing population is putting on the existing Maitland Hospital, and to reduce the need for Lower Hunter residents to go to the John Hunter Hospital, freeing up capacity there, she said.

‘‘To say the [new] Maitland Hospital will be a game changer for this region doesn’t even scratch the surface of how important this project is,’’ Mrs Skinner said.

‘‘It will transform healthcare for this rapidly growing region.’’

The new hospital’s location on the former PGH bricks site will include an emergency department, cancer services, more inpatient beds, and other services. Exactly when work will start depends on the company CSR finishing the site’s remediation.

But unlike a number of government infrastructure promises, the hospital is not contingent on the leasing of the state’s poles and wires.

However, the government says it is yet to determine whether it will be a wholly government-built project, a public-private partnership or privately built and managed, leaving voters in the dark before they cast their vote.

Mrs Skinner said the decision would be made after the final business case is handed to NSW Treasury mid year.

Its planners have also been considering whether to sell the existing hospital site and Morisset hospital to help fund the project.

But the minister said the new hospital would cater for public patients regardless of the procurement model, and only the government could be trusted to deliver the project.

‘‘The Baird government has made its commitment to delivering a new hospital for Maitland clear – we chose the site, started the remediation, progressed the master planning and have worked with the clinicians and the community to determine the clinical services needs,’’ she said.

Mr Thomson said it would ensure residents were able to receive more complex clinical care closer to home.

Premier Mike Baird will be campaigning in Newcastle on Thursday.