21st June 2023.
A call to the Government to deliver Bowral Hospital Stage 2.
"Bowral and District Hospital serves the community in a wide area of the Wollondilly Electorate including the Shires of Wollondilly and Wingecarribee, but also treats patients from surrounding areas as well as interstate and overseas visitors. This Hospital has had a capital works budget of $55 million in the last three years’ State Budgets for Stage 2 of its redevelopment. This hospital also has an advocacy group that is second to none in this State. To this end I thank and recognise the work of Edna Carmichael of Public Health First and Peter Edwards for their ongoing work and advocacy.
The Stage 2 upgrade for Bowral Hospital, promised initially under the former Member for Wollondilly, Jai Rowell MP and has been announced over and over again. But there is little physical evidence of redevelopment since Stage 1 was opened in 2020. The community has been told that a new Sterilizing Unit and a Pharmacy in Stage 2 have been completed. These are inside the Stage 1 building, but have been funded out of the $55 million Stage 2 budget. The community has already expressed its concerns about what isn’t happening at Bowral Hospital.
The Renal Dialysis Unit opened last year, inside the former Childrens’ Ward of the old hospital is a good example of the concerns raised. That Unit was principally funded with $750,000 raised by the community for the renal services equipment, but located in a refurbished area at minimal cost to NSW Health, nevertheless claimed as a Stage 2 achievement by the former Government and by the Local Health District. This funding and gathering of support by the community was under the assumption of the original Stage 2 redevelopment which would see an increase in bed numbers.
Stage 2 of redevelopment was identified in the Clinical Services Plans of 2015 + 2017 as requiring 129 beds by 2026 – that is, only 2½ years away. The Clinical Services Plan also projects the need for 142 beds by 2031. I and the community wait with baited breath for how this will be achieved.
There was a shortfall of 15 beds in Stage 1 of Bowral Hospital’s redevelopment on Day 1 of its opening in December 2020 – there were only 94 of the planned 109 beds. So, the planning target now should be 50 additional beds to deliver the planned 142 beds in 2031. This is without the staggering growth projections in the southern part of Wollondilly.
Wingecarribee Shire provides three quarters of the patients to Bowral Hospital. The population of Wingecarribee Shire is projected by the Department of Planning to grow to nearly 71,000 by 2041, an increase of 35.6% from 2022. An even greater population increase of 73.6% is happening in the Wollondilly Shire to 2041, much of this delivered at the swipe of the pen by the previous Planning Minister of the former NSW State Government.
But there is no increase in beds or clinical services evident in the announced Stage 2 of Bowral Hospital to match this population explosion. Planning has not progressed beyond 2031, ten years sooner than the current planning horizon of both the local Council and the Department of Planning, and the current announced Stage 2 project has no additional beds or clinical services to address the 2031 target. The Southern Highlands community has been short-changed by the announcement of this so-called redevelopment, which amounts only to refurbishment of old buildings and relocation of existing health services, hospital administration, a loading dock and a mortuary.
The 2015 Clinical Services Plan identified future services to be introduced or strengthened at Bowral Hospital up to 2026 – only two and a half years away from now. There are critical services missing at Bowral Hospital – stroke, cancer and urology for its ageing community, and ENT, that is Ear, Nose and Throat services for younger patients.
Stage 1 has provided modern physical facilities for patient care. There are still vast gaps in the services and corresponding facilities at Bowral Hospital that should be now being addressed to develop Stage 2 of the Master Plan, that has apparently been discarded and abandoned in favour of retaining existing old hospital buildings that will stand in the way and prevent future expansion of the Hospital’s facilities and services.
I call on the Government to fulfil the Stage 2 as originally planned, to listen to the community and I look forward to working with the Minister for Health’s office on the upgrade and I am pleased to notify that I have written to the Minister on this matter. I look forward to speaking on this matter again with updates and highlighting the needs of my community and the services as they are delivered."