The NSW and Victorian premiers have unveiled a plan to deliver a $558 million redevelopment of Albury Base Hospital but the announcement has left local doctors deflated, saying health departments have quietly shelved a master plan for a new hospital on the border.
Thursday’s announcement by Daniel Andrews and Dominic Perrottet, two leaders on opposite sides of the political aisle, was made in Albury in NSW, a month out from the Victorian election and four months ahead of the NSW state poll.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet converse at AlburyCredit: Jules Boag
Both states pledged $225 million for the redevelopment, on top of $108 million, which had already been allocated by the Commonwealth government, with construction to begin next year. The rebuild is planned to be completed by 2027.
However, secretary of the Border Medical Association, Dr Phillip Steele, said while it was positive to see both sides of politics working together, the funds will only go far enough to complete three out of five stages of the healthcare hub and millions more will be needed need to finish the redevelopment, blowing out its completion date to 2034.
“The entire rebuild of this health service has five stages and it’s going to take until 2034 to complete and it will require further funding along the way to achieve that,” Steele said. “This will disrupt service provision and disrupt everyone’s life for many, many years.”
A master plan, which has been kept under wraps by the Albury Wodonga Health board for months, unanimously recommended the rebuild of the Albury hospital rather than a greenfield facility.
Local doctors have raised serious concerns that the plan for a brand new, single-site hospital to serve the fast-growing community, has been dumped by the states’ health departments without explanation, despite years of work going into it.
“All this work and advice has been ignored by the departments,” Steele said. “All the other stuff that was going to really value add to the whole project and address future health needs, for decades to come, we’re concerned that that opportunity has been lost.”
As part of the joint funding announcement, an intensive care unit and updated maternity and paediatric facilities will be part of a new clinical services building to be built at the existing site, where a new helipad will also be installed.
It will also see a 32-bed mental health ward built, replacing the Nolan House Mental Health Unit, as well as the expansion of outpatient and specialist spaces for treatments such as dialysis.
Albury-Wodonga hospital services are jointly funded by the Victorian and NSW governments but run by Victoria. Services are split between two campuses, and patients are often required to travel to receive treatments.
The Victorian Liberal Party has promised $300 million for a new Albury-Wodonga hospital if elected.
Asked about Liberal Premier Perrottet making Thursday’s joint announcement with Andrews, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, who was announcing a new Women’s and Children’s hospital in Geelong, said he was unfazed.
“I couldn’t care less who Daniel Andrews campaigns with … he could campaign with Jerry Seinfeld, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest,” Guy said.
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