Base Hospital likely to miss out

LISMORE Base Hospital may again miss out on Federal funding for its critically needed Stage Three upgrade after Page MP Janelle Saffin suggested there may be problems with the State Government's funding application.

The Base missed out on funding for Stage Three last year in the Federal Government's Health and Hospitals Fund after former Labor NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt left it off a list of NSW priorities.

This year new Coalition Health Minister Jillian Skinner has put Lismore on the list for the fund's latest round, but a spokeswoman for Ms Saffin said the Page MP was not holding her breath, saying Lismore had not been put forward as NSW's top priority and the proposed State contribution was too small.

A spokeswoman for Ms Skinner said the Minister had put forward several projects for consideration for a slice of the $475 million Health and Hospitals Fund, but there had been no ranking of the projects, effectively giving them all an equal weighting.

It was not known how many projects had been put forward by the State Government.

Ms Saffin's spokeswoman said she understood State governments were expected to cover half the funding of projects put up for consideration by the Health and Hospitals Fund.

However, in a statement, Ms Skinner said this had not been the case for projects previously paid for through the fund.

The Federal Government invested $97m in Port Macquarie Hospital on the back of only a $13m contribution by NSW and it spent $160 million on a project at Bega Hospital the State Government had only a $10m stake in.

There have been rumours the State Government was asking for the Federal Government to pay $80m of the $100m project while the State chipped in $20m or 20% of the cost.

Ms Skinner did not confirm those figures, but said she expected they would be along the same lines as previous Health and Hospital Fund projects (14.5% in the case of Port Macquarie and 6% in the case of Bega).

The proposal put by the State Government is for an abbreviated version of the Stage Three redevelopment, which has now become known as "Phase One".

It would include the construction of a new state-of-the-art emergency department and four progressively smaller storeys, which would add to the hospital'soverall bed capacity.

However, even with the abbreviated project, an $80m grant would still take out close to one-fifth of the available $475m.

Other Northern Rivers organisations, including St Vincent's Private Hospital at Lismore and the Buttery drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre at Binna Burra, have also put in their own bids to the fund for building of a new facility at Bangalow.

A spokeswoman for St Vincent's said the private hospital wanted $4.5m from the fund to help develop its operating theatres.

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