Reprieve as state reopens EOI process on hospital site
TWEED MP Geoff Provest has called for the Expression of Interest process to be reopened for a period of up to six weeks to allow additional input from the wider community into the location of the proposed Tweed Valley Hospital.
Mr Provest was speaking before a hostile crowd of more than 250 people at Cudgen Leagues Club on Thursday night, many angry at the proposed site of the $534 million new hospital on 24ha of prime agricultural land on the border between Kingscliff and Cudgen.
Mr Provest said he had spoken to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to call for the site EOI process to be reopened following widespread anger over the site announcement.
"If somebody out there has a better site let us know," Mr Provest said.
"These experts have been working on this seven or eight months, they have looked at 35 sites if not more, but if anyone has a better site, let us know. My chief desire is to look after the health needs of the Tweed. I just want to get the best site possible. So please take part in the process."
His announcement came after NSW Health Infrastructure this week released a report into all of the sites investigated as part of its selection process.
But Mr Provest stressed the process could not be allowed to stall the build of the hospital, which he said would reach "crisis" level within four years.
Tweed Mayor Katie Milne thanked Mr Provest for seeking the extension, calling on the community to work together to assist in finding a new site.
"Hopefully we can all work together as a community and this council to assist in finding a new site. We just have to find the best site for the whole shire," Cr Milne said.
However, she said it was unfair to place the community under "emotional pressure to say patients are waiting", saying it was not the community's fault the health situation was in crisis.
The announcement was welcomed by Cudgen farmer Hayley Paddon after the meeting, who said she was "very pleased we've got some sort of an outcome and the community has been consulted".
The crowd fired a series of angry questions at NSW Infrastructure's Peter Lawless, the project director for the new hospital, who defended the department's selection process.
Cudgen resident Mike Skilbeck questioned the social impact of the hospital, saying the area would struggle to cope with such a big development.
"If we have 2700 staff, plus patients, plus add-ons, what impact are they going to have on a town of 7000?" he asked to loud applause.
"Locals can't get parking in the town on the weekend now."
But one resident, Fred, said he was a cancer patient and was sick of having to travel to Brisbane for treatment.
"I don't give a damn about the farm going, we need a hospital," he said.
Tweed Hospital Medical Council co-chairman Dr Mike Lindley-Jones - who heads the Intensive Care Unit at the Tweed Hospital - said while doctors did not want to comment on the site, they had been calling for a new hospital for years.
"We want the best for our patients and the community," Dr Lindley-Jones said.
He said on a personal level, having a state of the art hospital "is something I would want on my doorstop".
Federal MP Justine Elliot said it was a shame the community had been left out of the decision-making process and called for an independent auditor, such as a retired judge, to examine the decision process.
Other concerns raised included traffic congestion, the impact on the farmland, helicopter access, ambulance noise and more.
The new hospital is expected to include more than double the number of beds - from 220 beds to 450 beds, with staff to increase from 1200 to 2700 staff - as well as improved radiation, cardio and other facilities.
* Submissions to the EOI should be made to the official Tweed Valley Hospital site.