New hospital plan is short on details, poll

NO TIME: Premier Mike Baird talks with Robyn Parker at the site of a proposed hospital on Metford Road. Picture: Ryan OslandIN a fleeting first visit to Maitland as NSW premier, Mike Baird inspected the site for the new Lower Hunter Hospital but left without revealing when construction would begin.
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Mr Baird said he expected the hospital would be built within five years, in line with the recommendation put forward in the clinical services plan released last year, but could not offer any details about when the first sod might be turned.

Mr Baird wanted construction to start “as soon as possible” and claimed the government had already fulfilled its pre-election promise to fast-track planning for the new hospital and acquire the site.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary, Brett Holmes, said members wanted confirmation the hospital would be a public facility instead of a “private hospital delivering services to public patients”.

And opposition spokeswoman for the Hunter Sonia Hornery questioned why the government had only allocated $6million out of the promised $20million for the project.

Mr Baird said more announcements would be made once the planning process had finished.

“My expectation will be that the hospital could be delivered, will be delivered, within the five-year timeframe,” Mr Baird said.

The site could house a public and private hospital similar to health facilities at the John Hunter, Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo said, but nothing had been decided.

Mr Baird was also vague about when the light rail project was likely to finish in the Newcastle CBD, and would not reveal his position on development in the heavy rail corridor.

He said the government was “listening to the community” and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian would reveal the light rail schedule.

The Premier also waded into the debate surrounding section 94 contributions for the proposed fourth coal-loader at the Port of Newcastle, suggesting Newcastle City Council and Newcastle MP Tim Owen make a planning submission on how much the developers should pay.

In the normal course of events the T4 coal-loader proponents would be expected to contribute $48million (1per cent of the project’s value) to the council, but the Department of Planning suggested a payment of just $528,140.

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