SHOALHAVEN City Councillor and local health care worker Nina Digiglio says a more centralised greenfield site for Shoalhaven Hospital would be fairer for all residents.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District CEO Margot Mains has revealed in a leaked memo to staff the proposed $434 million hospital redevelopment will take over the adjacent Nowra Park.
The memo says Shoalhaven City Council had given "interim in-principle support for the acquisition of Nowra Park" which would allow "more new buildings in a more rapid construction ... enabling the current hospital to function with minimal disruption, effectively creating a greenfield opportunity for the redevelopment".
Cr Digiglio says the current Shoalhaven hospital site is confined in its possible future expansion space and believes a more centralised, new greenfield site, would be a better option.
"There is no criticism regarding all the work that has been done on this project and acknowledge the fact that the local health district is including council," she said.
"We welcome the proposed $434 million hospital upgrade but feel that money could be better spent on a new more centralised greenfield site that has the capability for future expansions and meet the growing needs of the city."
She said new "bigger hospitals" are being built in other areas at a cost of around $500 to $550 million.
Cr Digiglio has spoken to and sought information from local health professionals, specialists, GPs, nurses, allied health professionals and residents.
"Many of them knew nothing of this and felt as if people in positions of authority have been working for what they think is best, not for what the people are asking for," she said.
"The Shoalhaven is a large area and a population growing exponentially and one that trebles in holiday season.
"There are concentrated services in the north with minimal services to the south.
"Given the Shoalhaven covers a large area, Berry to Bawley Point, it makes sense to place the hospital more centrally where access to health service delivery is fairer given that distance and mortality is well documented.
"Unquestionably at the epicentre of the decision making process for the hospital location should be the underlying philosophy of saving lives not revitalising a town centre."
We need a 30 year plan. Let's do this once, spend the money and get it right.Shoalhaven City Councillor Nina Digiglio
Cr Digiglio said Shoalhaven's southern areas are placed at a distinct disadvantage and encompassing places like the Bay and Basin, Sussex and Ulladulla needs to be included when planning health service delivery infrastructure into the future.
"The current hospital is difficult to access and local residents, ambulance drivers and motorists are fed up with access blocks," she said.
Cr Digiglio said the current hospital is "Nowra centric" - "a site first selected 100 years ago" and "population centres and access requirements are completely different today".
"It does not service the Shoalhaven residents in an equitable manner by way of distance," she said.
"Ideally a 20km distance for the hospital to reach the entire LGA should be proposed."
She said the current plan does cater for the future
"What we have before us is not a future plan, it is a five year plan and we can do better than this and the Shoalhaven deserves better than this," she said.
"We need a 30 year plan. Let's do this once, spend the money and get it right."
The Shoalhaven is a large area and a population growing exponentially and one that trebles in holiday season.There are concentrated services in the north with minimal services to the south.Shoalhaven City Councillor Nina Digiglio
Cr Digiglio believes a greenfield site in the BTU/Forest road area south of Nowra, adjacent to the Princes Highway makes much more sense.
"Research proves 80 per cent of the population should live within 20 minutes or 20 kilometres of a hospital - location is the determining factor critical in saving lives of Shoalhaven residents," she said.
"Timely access to an emergency department overrules any other argument - 'it's too late now' or 'costs involved would not be considered feasible'.
"All politicians have a duty of care to the health of all residents."
She said the BTU/Forest road location has four high speeds (east, west, north, and south) all weather access roads, open air space for helicopter access and even nearby fixed wing aircraft facilities if required.
"There is space to easily expand at ground level. Building horizontally on a greenfield site is 30 per cent cheaper compared to building vertically on the same site," she said.
"There would also be space to co-locate with private, education and accommodation facilities."
The current hospital is Nowra centric - the site was first selected in 1919, 100 years ago, population centres and access requirements are completely different today.Shoalhaven City Councillor Nina Digiglio
She said a new greenfield site would also allow the hospital, as it is, to continue functioning as the new location is developed.
"The existing hospital infrastructure can be retained and repurposed to become a satellite extension of the Nowra CBD and consolidate all community health facilities from around Nowra," she said.
"We need to stop band-aiding this hospital with expenditure that could be placed into a brand new site with new infrastructure, based on a sustainable construction design to serve us into the future."
Cr Digiglio has launched a petition to try and bring the suggestion of a new greenfield site for the Shoalhaven Hospital to state government.
She hopes by gaining 10,000 signatures the issue can be brought before and debated in state government.
The petition is available here