28th November, 2023.
Delivered at 2.45am, Judy speaks out for the upgrades on Bowral Hospital:
The Bowral hospital upgrade is one of poor management. It is not necessarily the current upgrade or the older plan that is poor but the non-existence of management of community consultation throughout the change of plans during the former Government. Former member for Wollondilly Jai Rowell secured a significant funding package for Bowral hospital. Residents were then concerned about a private-public partnership because the hospital functions not only for Wingecarribee and Southern Highlands residents but also for people from the Wollondilly Shire Council area that travel to Bowral.
The Minister for Health attended a community meeting recently, requested jointly by me and the member for Goulburn. While the three of us are consistent with our desire for increased services at the hospital, Health Infrastructure is proceeding with an upgrade based on data long out of date. Public Health First representatives asked me to assist them to stop the works because it compromises the potential of the hospital to cater for the projected growth of the region. The Public Health First representatives appreciated the visit by the Minister to the hospital but were disappointed that the following questions were not answered. Why was the 2016 master plan abandoned? Why was the community not consulted or even informed of this important change that will downgrade the utility of this local hospital? Who was responsible?
Community expectations and trust have been lost in the present process. The current plan is based on outdated population demographic data. The former Government may not have made the decision and this may have taken place under the delegation of the former Minister responsible for Health Infrastructure, but the buck needs to stop with someone. Where was the former member for Wollondilly, Nathaniel Smith, MP, when the plan changed? Where was the outroar from the local media last year when the new contractors commenced work? This happened under the watch of the former Government, and the community is right to be angry.
I want to see at least a new clinical services plan for the hospital. I want to know the plans by Health Infrastructure for the increased services, including full completion of the buildings as designed to match the much‑needed services. I also want to see Health Infrastructure consult with Public Health First, putting the new general manager in place for consultation on a plan he says he did not know about and could not deliver. This achieves nothing and shows disregard to the community who are asking for extra services for good reason. We care about the hospital because it is ours. The community owns this asset. Whether it be in the Government's name or not, it is an asset that we use and we are proud of. We want to see it treated with care.
I have asked the Minister for Health to review the process of the upgrade in the hope that a best practice process for engagement can be created for the department in the future. I have also asked for a new clinical services plan, and for that to be considered in tandem with the contract already commenced by the former Government, overseen by the former member for Wollondilly and with a display of a complete disregard for community desires. I thank the Minister for Health for attending the meeting. Hearing these things can be hard, but I trust that he will listen to the call that is now completely bipartisan, with Independent, Liberal and Labor voices calling for increased services for Bowral hospital.