Doubts over new private hospital
By JANE GARDNER firstname.lastname@example.org WORK on a $10 million private hospital in Lismore is still months away from beginning, despite promises the facility would be open by now. The director of the company building the 66-bed Lismore Private Hospital said construction had been delayed because of a falling out with one of their consultants. Owen-Ferguson Health, a Sydney-based private health facility developer, announced the medical and rehabilitation facility in mid-2006, saying it would be built by early 2007. When complete, the hospital was expected to create between 70 and 80 new jobs. The site, at the old squash courts in McKenzie Street, Lismore, was cleared when the announcement was made, but no work has been done since. Co-director Kerry Ferguson said the delay was because the company had been struggling to find a reliable building consultant. "We engaged a company in design and construction for a project in Sydney and certain circumstances led to the disengagement of that company. Now we are back to scratch," she said. "We are now working with local consultants and Hutchinson in Tweed Heads." Ms Ferguson will visit Lismore next week to inspect the site and meet with contractors. She said the architect was still waiting on permission from Lismore City Council to start earthworks and, after that, it would take 26 weeks of construction to finish. A 'loose' advisory board for the hospital had been appointed. However, Owen-Ferguson was still searching for a capable nurse manager. State Member for Lismore Thomas George said he was always sceptical the facility would be built on time. "I had my doubts from the beginning," he said. "And this is where our rehabilitation was supposed to go." The medical fraternity also held suspicions the project would never eventuate. A spokesperson for the Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council said he had questioned whether there were enough private patients on the Northern Rivers to support another private health facility. Lismore City Council approved a development application for the hospital back in 2003, with work to have begun by August 2006. That deadline has since been extended, giving Owen-Ferguson until August this year to start work or lose its development approval.