NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has confirmed the $60 million staged upgrade of Armidale Hospital was a priority for the State Government, but stopped short of announcing funding or a timeframe for the project.
Mrs Skinner toured the hospital on Wednesday as part of a day-long visit to Armidale, during which she spoke to hospital staff, clinicians and GPs. She also visited the University of New England's School of Rural Medicine.
Mrs Skinner was due to turn the first sod on the new $6.3 million ambulatory care and chemotherapy building at the hospital, but construction was delayed due to pending contractual arrangements.
“This new facility will greatly enhance Armidale Hospital's capacity to treat cancer patients from Armidale and neighbouring districts,” she said.
“Once the building is finished, the new chemotherapy unit will not only provide more space for the cancer service, it will also fund two more chemotherapy treatment chairs, taking the total number of cancer treatment places at Armidale Hospital from four to six in 2013.”
When asked about the proposed $60 million redevelopment of the hospital, Mrs Skinner said the current construction should be regarded as “stage one”.
“There will be priority given to the redevelopment of the rest of the hospital in time to come,” she said. “It will happen, we just can't tell you the date.”
Hunter New England Health will apply for Commonwealth funding for the redevelopment if a new round of the Health and Hospitals Fund is announced.
New England MP Tony Windsor has criticised Mrs Skinner for not including the upgrade in the most recent application to the Health and Hospital Fund, requesting information about the issue under Freedom of Information.
But Mrs Skinner said all documents about the submission had already been publicly released.
She said the application did not pass a previous round of funding and was not resubmitted.
“Other projects on that round didn't meet the criteria either and they were invited to resubmit, while this one wasn't,” Mrs Skinner said.
“The local health district and clinicians have kept the clinical services plan current, they're far more realistic about understanding the need to meet the criteria so they can put in a successful application next time around.”
Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay, who invited Mrs Skinner to Armidale, said he had been encouraged by the Minister's support for the upgrade.
“The missing piece is the $60 million stage two redevelopment of Armidale Hospital and to hear the Minister say that this is a priority gives me confidence,” he said.