Thomas George
Thomas George

Major upgrade for hospital stalled

A MAJOR upgrade to Lismore Base Hospital’s emergency department and wards appears to have fallen off the State Government’s radar, a letter from a government parliamentary secretary to Lismore MP Thomas George reveals.

The upgrade is the third and most complex stage of the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment.

The new Richmond Clinic psychiatric unit was the first stage of the redevelopment, while the new cancer careunit, which is due to open next month, is the second.

However, costings for stage three of the redevelopment remain vague, with Mr George saying he had been quoted figures by the Government ranging between $100 million and $150 million.

The content of stage three remains equally vague, with no detail available of what the new emergency department would look like, or what the existing wards would be replaced with.

Mr George has been pushing hard for stage three, arguing the ageing main hospital building is unable to cope with the increasing patient numbers that come with the region’s high population growth.

That argument was vividly illustrated last month when an elderly patient in one of the wards was forced to dial Triple-0 to get a nurse’s attention when the hospital’s ageing nurse call system failed.

In a letter responding to Mr George’s questions about that incident and the future of the hospital, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Andrew MacDonald, on behalf of Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, said problems with the nurse call system were being fixed, with a temporary system in place until a permanent system could be installed.

Dr MacDonald pointed to the State and Federal spending on stages one and two of the redevelopment, but turned from quoting numbers to ‘difficult choices’ when he reached stage three.

“Stage 3 of the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment will be prioritised against other important capital works projects on a statewide basis,” the letter says.

“I know you understand that each year there are a very large number of requests for projects across the State, so difficult choices have to be made about which projects are undertaken within the available budget.”

A spokesman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt yesterday was unable to answer questions about the State Government’s plans for the stage three upgrade.

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