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Manning Hospital’s infrastructure crisis

Manning Health Committee chair Don Macinnis says there is urgent need for action to counter what he claims is an infrastructure crisis at Manning Hospital. DON Macinnis is looking for a cure for the “festering sore” that is the infrastructure crisis at Manning Hospital in Taree.

Millions of dollars is needed and this week he decided to speak to the issue of State government funding of Manning Hospital and the frustrations of Manning Health Committee as it seeks to press home the urgent need for action.

Mr Macinnis is the committee chair and says the “biggest challenge to be addressed is to get our local member who specialises in sound bites, press releases and photo opportunities to get off his backside and do something.”

The reference to member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead stems from the committee’s frustration at being repeatedly told “that money is coming.”

“Supposedly in the last budget there was $50 million to be shared between four or five hospitals. We were told that there would be $10 million for us – we’ve heard nothing and $10 million will go nowhere,” Mr Mcinnis said.

Mr Bromhead this week issued a media release stating that, “it is very pleasing that the NSW 2014/2015 Budget contained $50 million in the Restart NSW program for six regional hospitals from which Manning Base will receive $5 – $10 million to kick start the project.”

The release did not provide the exact funding figure or details of when monies would be provided to enable works to begin. However, further questions to Mr Bromhead revealed that “the amount will be determined by the treasurer, the health minister and cabinet.”

“This decision will be made available when treasury advises my office. I am currently fighting to have those amounts determined as soon as possible.”

Mr Bromhead said the NSW health minister Jillian Skinner was “very aware of the terrific ‘bang for the buck’ this project will deliver” but cited “the main issue to contend with is the pressure on the State budget and competing needs across the State.”

Mr Macinnis cites motivating Mr Bromhead to act for Manning Hospital as being “the first step that is probably going to be the hardest.”

“We just need to say righto, we just need to start planning and get things moving – I mean, with the time that it’s going to take means that we need to act,” he said.

“Having spent all the time drawing up plans and ideas we want to know how they are going to go about it, and when they are going to start.

“We want Mr Bromhead to put his hand up for a new hospital. It is as simple as that.

“The front portion of the hospital was completed 57 years ago. That’s the front wing – the other wing is older and inside that time, it has been gutted and rebuilt four or five times.

“It’s just a festering sore, I prefer to call it, and it’s not just us, Forster is just as much involved when you think about the issues.”

On paper, Manning Hospital looks good. This week Mr Bromhead revealed that “over the past two years, targets set by NSW Health under the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) scheme, have been exceeded.”

Mr Macinnis acknowledges this fact.

“It is. It is meeting all of the targets and that makes it hard to say that there is a problem, but there is a problem,” he said.

Today Manning Hospital general manager Tricia Bulic will leave the role. At the time of going to print, Hunter New England Health had not advised who would act in the role of general manager.

Mr Macinnis identifies the new year and the appointment of a new general manager as an opportunity for positive change.

“We want to be involved with the next appointment,” Mr Macinnis said.

“This local health committee was set up as an advisory group about five or six years ago and we sort of sat on the sidelines, not too sure of where our role fitted in and it’s developed over recent time.

“Because of frustrations and all sorts of issues, we have started to campaign to be more than advisory, to be more hands-on with decsion making.

“We want a stronger voice,” he added.

Expansion of outpatient clinics and oncology services, paediatric ward and special care nursery ward improvements, the removal and replacement of several buildings – there is a list and it is long of the infrastructure improvements needed at Manning Hospital in Taree.

The detail is outlined in the Hunter New England Health (HNE Health) ‘Manning Rural Referral Hospital Master Development Plan’ and it is repeatedly cited as the ‘go-to’ document by Manning Hospital Medical Council and Manning Health Staff Service Committee when discussing the hospital infrastructure funding crisis.

A team from Suters in Newcastle developed the plan in 2013 under the direction of HNE Health facility planner, Claire Groombridge. According to the plan, the project objective was to “carry out a high-level master development planning study for the hospital that will assist planning and development linked to future funding opportunities as they arise. Underlying the study is the understanding that a major redevelopment of the hospital through extensive rebuilding as a single project will not occur and that future development will be through smaller focused projects addressing particular services delivery requirements.”

HNE Health and Suters began work on the plan in February 2013 and it was released in June 2013. Since that time is has secured no funding from the State or federal government to implement any of the recommended infrastructure improvements.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead revealed at the launch of the plan that stage one of the redevelopment would cost around $20 million and require federal government funding assistance. He also flagged that “all funding mentioned in the 2013/14 NSW State Budget for hospitals had their Clinical Service Plans and applications for funding completed prior to 2011.”

A summary of the key recommendations is as follows:

o Buildings for short term removal: pathology buildings, mortuary building, pharmacy building and the dental building.

o Buildings for long to medium term removal: building 1, building 2 and the clinical service building.

Buildings for retention:

o Emergency department: requires improved access to intensive care unit, theatres, imaging, to the main entry and car parking and public internal after hours access required to imaging.

o Clinical service building: requires expansion of outpatient clinics and oncology services, improvement of paediatric ward and special care nursery and requires improved theatres flow restructuring.

o Community health centre: requires improved access and integration to main hospital.

o Mental health building: requires improved access and integration to main hospital.

o The High Street heritage building and the original primary building of the Victoria Fever Ward will be retained due to heritage significance.

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