Work to begin on Grafton Base Hospital mid-2009

THE wait is over ... a date has been set for the long-promised upgrade of Grafton Base Hospital.

Late yesterday the Acting Minister for Health, John Hatzistergos, announced detailed architectural drawings for the new operating theatres and emergency departments would be available early next year, with work planned to start by mid next year.

Mr Hatzistergos said the Iemma government would allocate $534,000 in the 2008-09 Budget to 'progress planning' for the upgrade.

"Currently, planners are working hard to update the project definition plan, which will form the basis for the final design of the new emergency department and operating theatres.

"Planners are continuing to work closely with clinicians to make sure this new facility meets the needs of patients and staff. The remainder of the Grafton master plan will be considered in due course, against other competing interests in the State."

Mr Hatzistergos said a project director would be appointed in the next few months to co-ordinate and oversee the design process.

"This step is the most important stage in the design process as it ensures the facilities will meet the needs of the local community and the clinicians," he said.

"While we would like the redevelopment to happen overnight, I would ask that the people of Grafton are patient as the final stages of planning are being completed."

Mr Hatzistergos said the allocation of $18 million from the Rudd Government had cleared the way for detailed planning to start.

"This funding represents a new spirit of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the Iemma government, with the Rudd government acknowledging their role in public hospitals," he said.

Grafton Base Hospital Medical Staff Council chairman Dr Allan Tyson said the announcement was great news.

"This is the furthest we have got so far," he said.

"Finally the State Government has felt the need to act."

Dr Tyson said he had noted the announcement came from the acting minister.

"He has obviously decided the project needed to go forward," he said.

He said project definition plans and architectural drawings had been done previously, but acknowledged planning needed to be done to ensure the operating theatres, the emergency department and other facets of the hospital worked well together.

But he said the Iemma government's own estimates showed $18 million would not be enough to complete the work.

"They will need to make an allocation above the announced planning funding," he said.

He said it was also important the NSW Government nominate a completion date for the project.

"There has been a long history of promises not being fulfilled," he said.

Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin last night welcomed the State Government's commitment to a timetable for the Grafton Base Hospital's redevelopment, particularly its start-up contribution of more than $500,000 to the joint Federal-State project.

"A new-look Grafton Base, if it is done to best practice for the 21st Century, will be one practical example of what Prime Minister Kevin Rudd refers to as ending the blame game (between federal and state governments) on public health," she said.

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