Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has written to the NSW Premier, Deputy Premier, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Medical Research and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, “asking that the election commitment of $263.8 million for the redevelopment of the Grafton Base Hospital (GBH) be honoured and included in the 2020/21 state budget”.
Councillors were unanimous in their support of a mayoral minute tabled by Cr Jim Simmons at the March 24 CVC meeting.
Councillor Simmons wrote in his minute: “There is concern that the NSW State Government budget does not show funding for an election promise made by the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, MP, for the $263.8 million redevelopment of the Grafton Base Hospital.
“…Council has now been approached by the Grafton Chamber of Commerce to provide support by way of writing to our politicians to seek an answer as to why the promised $263.8 million for the redevelopment of the Grafton Base Hospital has not been included in the current NSW state budget.”
Mr Gulaptis launched his campaign in October 2018 when he was joined by the mayor, Jim Simmons, Northern NSW Local Health District Board member and chair of the Grafton Base Hospital Medical Staff Council, Dr Allan Tyson, director of ICU, Dr Andrew White, and a range of other community and business leaders at GBH on Friday October 19.
At the time, Mr Gulaptis said the hospital “has reached its use-by-date and is close to capacity” and that the new Grafton Correctional Centre, which will house 1,700 inmates and reportedly generate 600 permanent jobs once operational in 2020, “will place further stress on health services”.
Significantly, the Northern NSW Local Health District rated the hospital’s redevelopment as its top priority.
“What I want is for there to be no doubt that the community wants this as its number one priority, no matter who is in government, no matter the outcome of the [March 2019] election,” he said.
Following the Coalition’s re-election in March 2019, the upgrade was included in the government’s ‘Election Commitments’ paper as part of the 2010/20 budget, however, no funding was allocated.
Mr Gulaptis told the Independent that, following the CVC decision, he had “raised the [issue of] funding for the total upgrade” of the hospital with the Deputy Premier, Health Minister and the Treasurer’s office.
“What I’ve said is I expect that the government will honour its commitment – in this term of government – and that I expect something in next budget so planning and preliminary works undertaken can commence in this term of government,” he said.
“It’s a massive project, but you can’t announce it one day and expect it to commence the next day; there’s a lot of work to do in interim period.
“I expect the funding to continue to such a point [in the forthcoming] budget] so the project can go out to tender.”