Shellharbour is the fastest growing area on the eastern seaboard of NSW and health services need to keep up to date with this population – and ageing population – growth. As a result, Shellharbour Hospital needs a major upgrade.
The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s Health Care Services Plan 2012-2022 revealed Shellharbour Hospital was a key priority – set to become a major metropolitan hospital which will provide a comprehensive range of secondary acute services to the southern Illawarra region.
This will mean patients in our electorate will get better access to a range of additional health care services – more beds, more emergency treatment spaces, more clinics, more outpatient services and more surgical capabilities.
It will mean less travel, more doctors and nurses, and better, improved building facilities for patients.
It will mean a range of more auxiliary staff and healthcare workers, creating up to 500 more local jobs.
However, the NSW Government has only delivered a disappointing dribble of funding so far: the 2013-14 Budget failed to deliver any substantial funding for the upgrade – just $3.2 million to be shared in a mish-mash of funding between planning for Shellharbour and Shoalhaven Hospitals and for the Master Plan of Wollongong Hospital. Fast forward to the 2016-17 Budget where still only the same planning money was on the table.
While the design team to plan the redevelopment of Shellharbour Hospital has been appointed, the construction team selected (despite no local Illawarra-based companies getting a look in), and the Shellharbour Hospital Service Plan released, there is still no roadmap to fund the estimated $250 – $300 million investment for this much-needed upgrade. Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward MP, publicly conceded that the planning work required still hadn’t yet been completed in 2014.
At the end of 2015, the State Government conceded that still, no funding had been allocated towards the project and no firm construction timetable had been set. In fact, in the NSW Parliament the State Government has voted against an amendment to place a precise timetable on the Shellharbour Hospital upgrade in 2015 and again voted against a start date in 2016.
With damaging statistics and revelations over past years, there is community concern that resources are being further stretched to their limit and funding for the hospital was more needed than ever:
• the Illawarra hospitals’ unplanned re-admission rates blow out ;
• Shellharbour Hospital failing to meet the mandatory national target for emergency departments processing of patients within four hours for consecutive years;
• the stubbornly high waiting times for urgent elective surgery at Shellharbour Hospital;
Since coming to office, Anna has campaigned for this upgrade, including sending the Minister for Health more than 500 letters from people in the Shellharbour electorate outlining why an upgrade is needed. She has urged and called on the NSW government to make the upgrade of Shellharbour Hospital a priority.
Then, at the end of 2016, the State Government made a surprise un-explained, un-detailed, un-costed announcement that it would privatise Shellharbour Hospital. For over a year, uncertainty about the future of our health and hospital services lingered with the Berejiklian Government’s attack on the state’s public hospitals.
Every step of the way, Anna and her fellow Illawarra State Labor MPs, hospital staff and their unions, patients, their carers and the thousands in the community have voiced their strong opposition to this public-private partnership, including with a 12,000-signature petition debated in the NSW Parliament. Finally, the Berejiklian Government backflipped on its proposal, announcing Shellharbour Hospital will remain in public hands: a victory for people-power over privatisation.
‘’Now, let’s get on with it. I’m calling on the NSW Government for a start date and detailed timetable for work to commence on the major upgrade and redevelopment of Shellharbour Hospital,” Anna Watson said, “It was promised at the 2015 election, yet we’re still waiting and now over a year’s worth of work behind.”
After six long years of delays from the State Government, things have changed though: the $251 million commitment was based on a health care service plan that’s now five years old. The plan has to be updated and the funding must cover that updated plan. Anna is supporting a recent call from more than 80 local senior doctors for more funds from the Government to adequately provide for Shellharbour Hospital’s redevelopment.
Anna Watson will continue to campaign strongly on behalf of our local community for the NSW Government to fully fund and deliver the much-needed upgrade to Shellharbour Hospital as a matter of priority.