A Moruya doctor has told Region Media the Eurobodalla community could be waiting for a new hospital for up to 10 years.
Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Michael Holland says the need to combine Eurobodalla’s two hospitals – Moruya District Hospital and Batemans Bay Hospital – and make it accessible to the entire region existed before he began practising locally 18 years ago.
Yet construction of the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital remains non-existent despite the NSW Government committing $150 million to the development two years ago.
That funding and an additional $50 million was promised after Dr Holland delivered a petition with 3000 signatures for better accident and emergency services, critical care and perioperative (before and after surgery care) services in Eurobodalla to local member Andrew Constance on 26 October, 2018.
At the time, NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said work on the new hospital would begin within the term of the current NSW Government, which ends in 2023.
However, Dr Holland and others are concerned the government could simply turn the “first shovel of dirt” to fulfil Mr Hazzard’s promise.
Dr Holland is also concerned about the fact that since then, work has commenced on the $150 million Goulburn Base Hospital redevelopment, and prior to that, the new South East Regional Hospital opened in Bega.
“That’s despite all the big, glaringly obvious statistics that show there is a greater need for services in the Eurobodalla,” he says.
The total number of accident and emergency presentations in 2018-2019 was 25,503 in the Eurobodalla, compared to 15,395 at South East Regional Hospital and 16,983 at Goulburn Base Hospital.
The number of semi-urgent, urgent and emergency presentations were also higher in the Eurobodalla than at the other two hospitals during the same period, according to data from MyHospitals.
Additionally, Eurobodalla’s population is projected to increase from 37,968 people in 2016 to 40,617 by 2031. With a median age of 53.2 years, the region has one of the highest proportions of older residents in NSW.
“After three years, our accident and emergency departments and critical care services still lack the equivalent clinical support of a unified service with accident and emergency specialists; credentialled accident and emergency visiting medical officers; a specialist critical care doctor; and specialist nurses which are provided in the neighbouring, less clinically active units of South East Regional Hospital and Goulburn Hospital,” says Dr Holland.
Eurobodalla’s health service sends more than 40 per cent of patients to hospitals outside of the region because services cannot be provided locally.
The Eurobodalla Health Service Clinical Services Plan, which Dr Holland helped create before it was released in March 2020, acknowledges the region’s health infrastructure is deteriorating and that the existing workforce is unable to support patient needs.
The plan also agrees there should be a single hospital that combines existing services, provides a critical care unit and manages all emergencies in Eurobodalla.
However, when Dr Holland signed off on the document, he didn’t realise the plan would be based on changes taking place in 2031.
“In other words, there is no guarantee of level-four services at the new hospital for 10 years,” he says.
Previously, resistance to a single hospital in the Eurobodalla had existed because politicians didn’t want to pick a site that would mean residents in either Moruya or Batemans Bay would lose their hospital, says Dr Holland.
However, in August 2020, NSW Health said the new hospital would most likely end up in Moruya, either in an industrial area on the northern boundary of Moruya, or next to Moruya TAFE with connectivity to the planned Moruya Bypass.
The bypass will allow people to travel from as far south as Tilba to as far north as Milton-Ulladulla to the Eurobodalla Regional Hospital, says Dr Holland.
Patients will have access to a new emergency department; surgical and operating theatres; a day-stay surgical unit; ambulatory care for access to outpatient health services; and chemotherapy and renal dialysis. The total number of beds will also increase by 54.
The promise of an announcement of the final site for the hospital development before the end of 2020 has given Dr Holland and the community hope.
However, that doesn’t stop Dr Holland from noting all the other promises made by the NSW Government are “open-ended with no fixed date”.
Region Media contacted Mr Hazzard and Mr Constance for comment on Eurobodalla Regional Hospital but received no response.