The preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.
The preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.

‘Preferred’ new hospital site put under microscope

IT WILL be one of the biggest developments the region has seen in recent history and it’s expected to serve growing community health needs well into the future.

So where do you put the proposed new Bundaberg hospital and why?

A business case into the development of a new hospital is underway on a site which is state-owned land to the west of Kay McDuff Dr and adjacent to the Bundaberg Ring Road, about 5km south of the CBD.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the preferred site announcement while in the region on July 29.

Building Queensland is leading the preparation of the detailed business case, in partnership with Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service and Queensland Health.

WBHHS board chair Peta Jamieson said given the nature of the Bundaberg region and potential flooding impacts, there was only a “small number” of sites that could be considered as potentially suitable for a project of this scale and complexity.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, WBHHS board chair Peta Jamieson and chief executive Deborah Carroll at the preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, WBHHS board chair Peta Jamieson and chief executive Deborah Carroll at the preferred site for the new Bundaberg Hospital.

“The site analysis process considered more than 40 sites around Bundaberg, including a range of government, council and privately held land,” she said.

“In addition, the principal consultant undertook a high-level review of the overall Bundaberg region to ensure land meeting key assessment criteria had not been overlooked.

“Key aspects that set the preferred site apart from others was its good flood resilience – both on the actual site, along with access to the site – its ability to accommodate long-term complementary use, airport accessibility and the availability of the land, to name a few.”

Ms Jamieson said community feedback following the announcement had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“We appreciate the community’s support for the preferred site and are committed to getting on with the job of delivering a detailed business case,” she said.

While everyone is in favour of a new hospital being built in the region, several queries have been raised about the preferred site.

Member for Bundaberg David Batt said he’d raised the issue of location with regards to traffic and the fact that the 60ha block is an environmental reserve.

CALLS FOR TIMELINE: Member for Bundaberg David Batt outside the Bundaberg Hospital.
CALLS FOR TIMELINE: Member for Bundaberg David Batt outside the Bundaberg Hospital.

He has raised the matter of location with residents at weekly mobile offices, Shalom Markets and visits to community groups and social media.

“Our community is divided over this site for various reasons, but overwhelmingly the people of Bundy, including myself, just want to see a new hospital built and if this site is the only option, we need to work with it, finalise the planning and start construction,” he said.

“There are community concerns regarding the impact a hospital at this site will have on nearby roads like Branyan St and Fitzgerald St which are already under immense pressure at various times throughout the day.

“Many are also confused as to why the State Government wants to use a 60ha fully vegetated parcel of land reserved for environmental purposes to build the hospital.”

With regards to road concerns, Ms Jamieson said the project team was currently continuing investigations and discussions with senior technical representatives from Bundaberg Regional Council and Transport and Main Roads, to determine the most appropriate access solutions to the surrounding road network.

She said they want to ensure they make the most of the site’s strategic location and accessibility for staff, patients and visitors.

Traffic engineers will also be considering broader network changes and impacts as part of their planning.

Confirming the site was currently held as an environmental reserve, she said all environmental legislation would be complied with in planning for this essential infrastructure, including state and federal legislation relating to any tree clearing.

“The project team is engaging with an ecologist to assist with this important work,” she said.

“Given the scale of the site, the design team is working to incorporate as much of the existing tree coverage into the design as possible to create a natural healing environment for patients.”

The NewsMail also queried about any potential concerns for PFAS issues given the site’s proximity to the airport.

Ms Jamieson said the public health unit had indicated there are no known PFAS issues at the preferred site, “nor are any anticipated”.

“This will be explored further as planning activities progress,” she said.

Labor candidate for Bundaberg Tom Smith locals were telling him daily that they were “really happy with the site and just want to get the hospital built”.

Labor candidate Tom Smith.
Labor candidate Tom Smith.

“It’s so typical of the LNP, they whinge and whine and never get anything done, while Labor gets stuck in and delivers better hospitals and creates jobs,” he said.

“I’m told the selection of the site followed a comprehensive process by independent experts who considered more than 40 locations.

“Let’s get behind this great project and get the hospital built.”

Mr Batt said a new hospital for Bundaberg had always been his number one priority and would continue to be until he saw money in the budget and the sod turned.

“The current Bundaberg Base Hospital has served our region well for more than 100 years, but it is now time for a new facility to be built,” he said.

“A new Bundaberg hospital will benefit our community from patient care, better working facilities for our hardworking healthcare staff through to the local economy and I look forward to seeing the plans progress.”

The detailed business case is expected to be presented to the Queensland Government in 2021 for consideration.