Timeline unknown

By Zoe McMaugh

No timeline has yet been given for the $4.6 million upgrades pending for Deniliquin Hospital, other than it will occur in this term of government.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton sought an update on the project, and another funding promise at Leeton, in Parliament last week, and says the response was ‘‘totally unacceptable’’.

According to NSW Government house papers the response from NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard was short: ‘‘As committed to by this government, work will begin at Leeton Hospital and Deniliquin Hospital during the current four year term’’.

Ms Dalton said she intends to write a formal letter to Mr Hazzard requesting a firm date, and that she was prepared to ‘‘ramp up the pressure’’ if she was still not satisfied with the response.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District chief executive Jill Ludford was also unable to give a definitive timeline, but said the planning process would be in part decided by a new community health committee.

‘‘Any construction work requires appropriate planning, beginning with the development of a service plan which uses data and collected information to project the emerging and future health needs of the community,’’ Ms Ludford said.

‘‘MLHD, together with the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, are consulting with the community of Deniliquin and surrounding region on their health needs to better inform the planning process.

‘‘It is anticipated that the Deniliquin ‘Working Together for Better Health’ Committee which is currently being established will help inform the planning process.’’

The community committee is in the process of being formed, and was established following a huge push in the community before the state and federal elections.

It included the ‘Save Our Hospital’ campaign led by the Pastoral Times, during which Deniliquin doctor Marion Magee — who now chairs the selection panel for the health committee — highlighted a number of health failings.

She said while Echuca’s health service continues to improve and expand, different health management styles have seen Deniliquin stagnate or go backwards.

A new CT scanner is among the upgrades flagged for the $3.2 million allocation from the NSW Government.

It was initially promised by former local member Austin Evans during the March state election.

Despite losing his seat to Ms Dalton and the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party, NSW Coalition Premier Gladys Berejiklian vowed to honour Mr Evans’ commitment when queried by the Pastoral Times in April.

Other upgrades to be covered by the state funding includes a new maternity nursery, theatre upgrade, pharmacy space, relocation of the oncology clinic and creation of a treatment space for paediatric and adolescent patients.

During the May Federal Election, returned Liberals Member for Farrer Sussan Ley promised a further $1.4 million for general modernisation to bring the emergency department (ED) to a contemporary standard and functional layout, reconfiguration of the ED entry, both ambulance and public entries, creation of a separate waiting room area for patients requiring privacy, reconfiguration of the ED treatment spaces to provide a discrete area for vulnerable patients and their families and separation of the ED from the inpatient accommodation.

Some factions of the community feel the funding and proposed upgrades are not enough, and are calling for a new hospital to be built.

Both upgrades and a green site facility are to be considered by the community health committee.