MP petitions own government over hospital funding priority

LOCAL MP Chris Gulaptis says the Clarence community must petition the State Government to make sure a $264-million rebuild of Grafton Base Hospital remains a top priority.

Yesterday Mr Gulaptis called a meeting of doctors, community organisations and the media to help him spread the message, which seems to have got lost in the halls of government in Macquarie St.

"We need to work together as a community to make this happen," he said.

"One of us can't do it. I can't do it on my own. I need your help to put this front and centre of the government's attention."

Chris Gulaptis launches hospital campaign: Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis launches his community petition for the redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital
Chris Gulaptis launches hospital campaign: Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis launches his community petition for the redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital

In July the Northern NSW Local Health District made a rebuild of the hospital its top priority for the coming year at a cost of $263.8million.

It's report on the priority listing noted the hospital was close to capacity with inpatient beds, emergency, renal dialysis and chemotherapy infrastructure expected to reach capacity by 2022 and infrastructure for ambulatory care services was to reach capacity in 2020.

It also noted the construction of Australia's largest jail, due for completion south of Grafton at the end of 2020, would also place stresses on the region's health services.

And it flagged the need for a new hospital to include extensive mental health in-patient facilities.

But the government response to this list has been underwhelming, prompting Mr Gulaptis to go to the community to sharpen the government's focus.

"It's not that they're ignoring the LHD priority; there is plenty of competition for the money," Mr Gulaptis said.

"There are other LHDs in the State who also have their priorities."

Mr Gulaptis said the March 2019 State Election could would also put pressure on the government to fund the project.

"No one is taking any seat for granted," he said.

"Recent by-election results have shown the public is not happy with any politicians who make the mistake of focussing on internal issues and not what affects them."

Mr Gulaptis said the response from the community to his call out was pleasing, with doctors from the hospital, Clarence Youth Action Group, Our Healthy Clarence, Headspace, jail contractor John Laing Group, the hospital auxiliary and Grafton Chamber of Commerce all represented.

A long-time activist for the hospital development, Dr Alan Tyson, was delighted with the community response.

"It was a good turnout here today," he said.

"It shows the priority listing from the LHD has resonated with the community and they have responded."

Community members such as Bill Dougherty OAM, Ron Bell and Des Harvey were also among the crowd outside the hospital.

The petition calls on the New South Wales Government to note the rapid growth in the regon which has created need for expanded health services.

It called on the government to fund the redevelopment of the hospital site as set out in the Clarence Valley (Grafton) Health Services Plan 2016-26 and Grafton Base Hospital Master Plan 2016.

"We've seen the rebuild of Lismore Base Hospital, we've seen the new hospital at Byron Central, we've seen money committed at Tweed Heads and now it's our turn," Mr Gulaptis said.

"In fact it's the highest priority on the local health district's priority list. The way we can do it is by signing this petition."