Grafton Chamber of Commerce: ‘Where’s the money Premier?’

The Grafton Chamber of Commerce has fired off letters to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis “seeking the immediate allocation of the necessary funding for planning work” to commence on the proposed $263.8million redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital (GBH).

“Chris said it’ll be there, the premier said it will be there; where is it?” chamber spokesperson Ron Bell told the Independent.

We want somebody to say the money will be put into the budget.”

This year’s NSW budget has been postponed to “October or November” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Gulaptis said.

The NSW Government’s 2019/20 budget papers listed GBH’s redevelopment in its ‘election commitments’ document: “Progress planning for the $263 million GBH redevelopment, in addition to the $17.5 million already invested in the current [ambulatory care] upgrade of the hospital,” it stated.

The chamber writes in a media release that Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently said on Radio 2GF “that her government would meet all its commitments [and] confirmed that the re-development will go ahead, but she indicated no time-line for funding of the project’.

“However, the Chamber’s Hospital Sub-Committee spokesman, Ron Bell, says, ‘whilst there has been plenty of talk that the redevelopment will go ahead, there is currently very little, or no planning being done by NSW Health’.”

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said he has “certainly raised the subject of funding with the Deputy Premier [John Barilaro] and the Premier’s Office”.

“The advice I have received is that all election commitments will be met,” he said.

Mr Gulaptis said a project of this size “requires considerable and complex planning”.

“It will take time and a number of stages to complete the $263million rebuild.

“I have spoken to health district’s executive officer [Wayne Jones]; first we need planning money to ensure [the project is] progressing in a logical sequence.

“The funding has to be commensurate with the progress of the development.”

Mr Gulaptis said the process has stalled with the Northern NSW Local Health District and that its 2016 master plan “needs updating”.

“The plans have not yet progressed to the point of having a budget,” he said.

“They [the health district] have a master plan and a clinical plan, but I don’t know how the plans they have translate to getting approval by NSW Health and the local authority [so it can be] costed to go out for tender.”

Northern NSW Local Health District executive officer Wayne Jones said in a media statement: “Appropriate planning is critical to the construction of any project and especially one as significant as a redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital.

“Northern NSW Local Health District will work with Health Infrastructure and clinical staff to progress the project through the planning stages.

“This will include extensive consultation with stakeholders, to ensure the project meets the needs of health professionals, services and the community.

“Consistent with the usual planning process for major health infrastructure projects, funding is allocated as part of the annual state government budget process.”

Mr Bell said the nearly completed Clarence Correctional Centre will “bring 1,700 prisoners and more than 600 staff to the Clarence Valley”.

“The chamber sub-committee sees this local population increase equal to a new small town,” he said.

“The state government is simply not providing the necessary infrastructure to keep up with what will be an increased demand on the services provided at our local hospital.

“The community should have real concerns about the welfare of the staff working at the Grafton Base Hospital, with the expected increase of their workload.”