Grafton Hospital ’prepared’ for 1700 new jail inmates

HEALTH officials are adamant the arrival of 1700 new prison inmates will not affect Grafton Base Hospital's ability to maintain a proper standard of care.

The new prison is due to open 12.5km outside Grafton in 2019, with the Baird Government promising a facility with "state-of-the-art security and rehabilitation services".

It will comprise a 1000-bed maximum security jail, 300 beds for women in maximum security and lodgings for 400 minimum-security male inmates.

Minister for Correction David Elliott stands in front of correctional officers at the Grafton Correctional Centre on a visit.Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Minister for Correction David Elliott stands in front of correctional officers at the Grafton Correctional Centre on a visit.Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott announced on Thursday the NSW Budget would include $3.8 billion over four years to upgrade the state's prison system and build jails.

The money is there, but exactly how Grafton Base Hospital will deal with a potential influx of inmates is not yet clear.

Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive officer Annette Symes said she was working with State Government agencies to ensure the hospital was prepared.

"The planned facility will be a privately operated correctional facility, with internal health care provisions for inmates," Ms Symes said.

"The impact of the former Grafton Jail on Grafton Base Hospital was minimal, with the impact of the proposed new facility expected to be manageable," she said.

"There are longstanding arrangements in place to ensure adequate security for those rare occasions when inmates require hospital treatment.

"The hospital will continue to consult with corrections staff on these matters to refine and improve on these security procedures as needed."

Mr Elliott said four "high-quality" expressions of interest to build the jail had been received, with three consortia invited to submit their proposals.

He said the prison would become a "regional hub" supported by smaller specialist centres, allowing most prisoners to complete their sentence and reoffending programs in one region to save on transport costs.

"This will allow Corrective Services to move inmates through programs and security levels over the course of their sentence in the one region, improving efficiency and promoting rehabilitation and safe reintegration into the community," a spokeswoman said.

"It will be a major multifunctional, regional facility servicing the northern part of NSW.

"And in particular, (it) will be the primary correctional facility for all corrections operations from the Queensland border in the north to Kempsey in the south-east and Tamworth in the south-west."

Projects NSW will visit Grafton next month to update the community and answer questions about the plan.

The project's environmental impact statement will be publicly exhibited in July or August, with the public invited to make formal submissions.

Bidders to build the project have until November 10 to submit their proposals.

The preferred bidder and design will be decided next year. - ARM NEWSDESK

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