When Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis recently announced the promised redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital (GBH) will become a reality following the unveiling of the NSW Budget for 2022/23, members of the Grafton Base Hospital Community Committee (GBHCC) reacted with confusion.
After Mr Gulaptis publicly announced $263.8 million to refurbish the facility in March 2019, former Deputy Premier John Barilaro followed with a pre-budget pledge in October 2020, declaring money had been set aside in the upcoming budget for project planning to commence.
“There is a bucket set aside of $20 million, we’ll draw against that investment, and we’ll get the planning done,” he said.
But when Mr Gulaptis said the first tranche of the $263.8 million investment is “a healthy $24 million” in late June 2022, adding the new budget commitment meant master planning would start within weeks, the GBHCC were left scratching their heads after it was revealed the state budget features only $1 million to be spent during the current term on the long-awaited hospital upgrade.
Speaking with the Clarence Valley Independent last week, members of the GBHCC, including Ron Bell, Des Harvey and Phil Belletty, revealed none of the announcements made by the NSW Government make sense.
And they want answers.
“I don’t understand where this $1 million fits in if the $24 million announced by Gulaptis is for planning,” Mr Bell explained.
“My understanding is all the planning has been done.
“Barilaro said $20 million had been allocated towards planning, so where is that money?
“Why are they now saying here is $24 million for planning?
“We’ve been given three different figures, and it’s confusing.”
The GBHCC want to know where the initial $20 million has gone, why a commitment of just $1 million for the 2022-23 financial year has been allocated according to www.budget.nsw.gov.au, why there has been a lack of community consultation regarding the redevelopment of GBH, and to be notified of further updates surrounding the project planning.
While Mr Harvey said $1 million is “not going to go far,” with regards to the redevelopment, Mr Bell described the money as “chicken feed.”
“We need our local member as our elected representative to answer these questions,” Mr Belletty said.
The GBHCC have also stated they would like to call a public meeting and invite Mr Gulaptis and the Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor to attend for a “please explain?”.
The Clarence Valley Independent also contacted Mr Gulaptis for comment.
No response had been received at the time of publication.