GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service chief executive Adrian Pennington and board chair Peta Jamieson.
GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service chief executive Adrian Pennington and board chair Peta Jamieson. Eliza Goetze

Health game-changer for regional economy

IN JUST over a month, Wide Bay Hospital and Health board chair Peta Jamieson and the organisation's chief executive Adrian Pennington will submit a document to the Queensland Government that could change the region forever.

Should the case for a new or refurbished Level 5 Bundaberg Hospital get the green light, there's the potential for more than 1000 jobs to be created during the construction process, an estimated 500-800 permanent health-related jobs and the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service's annual budget is likely to jump by an estimated $150-200 million each year.

The multiplier impact of this huge injection is in the ball park of $1.5b a year for the region's economy.

For a region that has battled high unemployment for far too long it's the game changer Bundaberg so desperately needs.

Ms Jamieson and Mr Pennington this week updated members of the region's business community on the journey so far and where to from here.

It starts with the lodgement of the business case with the Queensland Government in April.

The government will then decide whether the case for a new or significantly refurbished Bundaberg Hospital is to be approved.

If the green light is given, while there will be plenty of big smiles in the Bundaberg region, there's still plenty more milestones to achieve.

Following the correct processes, this project cannot proceed to a detailed evaluation - without State Government agreement to underpin the long-term project with capital investment.

While the capital spend on a hospital for the region's future is unknown, Ms Jamieson said it was likely to exceed $500million.

The complex business case for the hospital takes into account factors such as population and future health needs studies, clinical and diagnostic needs, size and capacity requirements, site suitability including flood resilience, and detailed workforce planning.

Should there be an approval, the next phase would see a detailed evaluation, followed by a procurement (tender phase, awarding contract) and then project delivery, construction and commissioning.

This will take years (see graphic on this page).

The numbers we're dealing with though are huge.

Currently the hospital's annual budget is $630million, with 3,700 staff internally.

There are also $15million of partnership contracts with the private sector - equating to another 170 full-time positions.

While there were several Level 5 services already available at the Bundaberg Hospital, a Level 5 hospital would change the face of health in the Wide Bay and service demands for the next 50 years.

It will deliver an extra 500-800 permanent jobs and an additional $150-$200m annual spend as well as delivering a huge boost to bed numbers.

It's clear listening to Ms Jamieson and Mr Pennington that no stone has been overlooked as they've meticulously armed themselves with key information to convince the government this project needs to happen.

Ms Jamieson said it would be a huge economic driver requiring high level planning to accommodate so many more workers and their families.

Planning for more schools, housing and other key needs will all have to be part of a bigger long-term project if the government gives the green light.

A new hospital is a game changer for a region that is battling many public health issues, including high levels of smoking and obesity.