Health focus pushes $263m hospital up priority list
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has elevated the $263 million rebuild of Grafton Base Hospital into an echelon of promises that must be kept.
Speaking to 2GF presenter Richie Williamson, the Premier said the hospital upgrade was a commitment her government would honour.
"We promised to keep all our election commitments," Mrs Berejiklian said.
"We're definitely look at opportunities where we can bring forward projects, especially in health.
"If we've said we're upgrading and building Grafton Base Hospital that's definitely what we'll be doing."
The Northern NSW Local Health District Board had made the hospital upgrade its top priority within the district and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis pushed the government hard on the project.
It looked have been pushed back in the queue when it was not costed in the 2019-20 State Budget last June.
But last year Mr Gulaptis reassured the electorate the project was still high priority.
"It's not a line item as such as we are still in the very early planning stages but there is a commitment for works to commence during this term of government," he said.
"In the meantime, consultation needs to occur between the LHD, clinicians and the community to ensure the redeveloped hospital is able to provide for the community into the future."
Northern NSW Local Health District board member Dr Allan Tyson welcomed the premier's commitment to the project.
"The hospital project was noticeably absent from the last state budget," Dr Tyson said.
"What's particularly heartening about Mrs Berejiklian's comments was it's the first time the Liberals have acknowledged the promise.
"Up to now it's something the Nationals have been pushing."
Dr Tyson said the pressure was on the State Government to fund the planning of the project in the next budget, if the project was to be finished in this term of government.
"There is a formula Infrastructure NSW uses - a percentage of the project budget - to come up with a figure, which should be $15 to $20 million for planning," he said.
"Unless there is a commitment from the government this year, there's no way the project will even get a start in this term of government."
Dr Tyson said another big infrastructure project was needed in the Clarence Valley to replace the highway, bridges and jail builds that were all winding up.
"You look at the unemployment rates on the North Coast and you realise how important it has been to have these big infrastructure projects happening.
"Unless we get another big project, those numbers are going to fall off a cliff."