Gillard’s regional health pledge may aid Sunshine Coast Hospital
Thursday, September 16, 2010, 5:34 pm
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s vow to commit health and hospital funding to regional Australia has provided hope for a region condemned to wait another six years before the Sunshine Coast University Hospital is delivered.
Ms Gillard said the next round of funding for the $1.8 billion Health and Hospitals Fund will go exclusively to the regions as part of Labor’s deal with independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.
“Ours will be a Government with just one purpose, and that’s to serve the Australian people,” she told reporters following her party’s successful formation of a minority government.
Completion of the Sunshine Coast Hospital was originally set for 2014 on a site at Sippy Downs, Kawana, but the release of the 2009 Queensland budget saw the project relocated to a site on Kawana Way and rescheduled to 2016.
Before the independents’ decision to back a Labor government, current member for Kawana, the LNP’s Jarrod Bleijie, was hopeful of a Coalition victory, not only due to party preference, but also due to his hope in securing funds from his federal counterparts.
“I hope the independents give their preference to the Coalition,” he said.
“I can make some recommendations to the health minister Peter Dutton to try and get him up the coast to try and get this hospital going sooner rather than later.”
Despite the Coalition’s loss of majority in the House of Representatives, Mr Bleijie may get the injection of funding and resources he was chasing from a federal Labor government instead.
However, Mr Bleijie hopes Ms Gillard’s Labor Government will be truer to its word than its state counterpart.
“Knowing this (state) Government I don’t trust anything they say any more, and that’s the view in terms of the hospital on the Sunshine Coast,” he said.
Mr Bleijie is furious at the Government’s handling of such a vital piece of infrastructure for the growing region.
“The State Government says by 2031 there will be half-a-million people on the Sunshine Coast,” he said.
“For the sake of planning and infrastructure you can’t keep delaying hospitals.”
The government desired to deliver the project as a public private partnership.
Kevin Hegarty, district chief executive officer of the Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District maintains that the hospital’s delay was due to global, financial strains on the private sector.
“The decision to delay the delivery of the [hospital] from 2014 to 2016 was made in response to market sounding undertaken in early 2009 regarding the affect of the global financial crisis on the project,” he said
“The feedback received during the market sounding confirmed that the global financial crisis had made it difficult for the private sector to secure funding.”
The Nambour General Hospital is currently the closest major health care centre for the majority of the Sunshine Coast’s 300,000 strong population, however it’s still more than an hour away for most residents.
Queensland Health currently has plans to deliver 96 new beds to the Nambour Hospital by August next year and a private hospital on the Kawana Way site by 2013.
But Mr Bleijie believes these actions will be too little too late.
“In reality out of the private hospital there’s only going to be 70 then up to 110 beds, which is great, extra beds on the Sunshine Coast is fantastic but we need more than 70 to 110 beds,” he said.
Mr Hegarty says the additions to the already established health care centres, including an expanded emergency service at Caloundra, will help to alleviate much of the medical strain on the area.
“The new and expanded services will mean fewer people having to travel to Brisbane hospitals for care and allows for the ramp up of services and staffing levels ahead of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital opening,” he said.
“However, patients requiring highly specialised care such as transplants will continue to access specialists at the major Brisbane hospitals.”
Earlier this year 30,000 Sunshine Coast residents signed a petition to have the project moved forward.
Even though the current 2016 completion date has remained unchanged, Mr Bleijie is ecstatic over the announcement of $700 million of additional health services for the Sunshine Coast.
“I have a firm belief that would not have been achieved if the community sat back and accepted the delayed hospital and was not continually at the throat the Government,” he said.