9 May 2023

Old Bega Hospital partial restoration works welcome news for volunteer group

| Claire Sams
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old hospital building

The group managing Old Bega Hospital is “thrilled” the building will be partially restored, after the site was damaged in a 2004 fire. Photo: Elka Wood.

It was news that took years to come, but the Old Bega Hospital site will see partial restoration works in the coming months.

Chairperson of the Old Bega Hospital Reserve Land Manager group Patricia ”Pat” Jones said the outcome meant a lot to the volunteers.

“It means the beginning of what was thought in the past might be a dream,” she said.

Late in April, it was announced the hospital site would see partial restoration work including giving the main building a complete roof and essential services, such as water, electricity and sewerage. The work is expected to take about a year to complete.

The Reserve Land Manager is a volunteer group responsible for management of the site on behalf of NSW Crown Lands, its owner.

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The news followed years of dedicated work from the group, but it had not always been smooth sailing, Ms Jones said.

“From time to time, when things aren’t working out and you’ve applied for grants you don’t get, you get disheartened,” she said.

“But, between us all, we were not all disheartened at the same time.”

Despite difficulties, the Reserve Land Manager group kept pushing for the restoration of the site, putting in long hours of campaigning, writing letters, selling raffle tickets, submitting funding applications and using other methods.

Asked to describe his emotions when the announcement was made, group treasurer John William Reynolds had some simple words: “Very, very thrilled.”

“We were all very thrilled to find that the tenders had been answered and it was all sorted.”

Leser Build, a Bega-based business, had landed the contract.

“The Land Manager is really, really pleased that the money we’ve worked to raise is going to be spent with a local business, because we are cognitive of the importance of assisting the local economy,” said Mr Reynolds.

The Old Bega Hospital was damaged by an accidental fire in May 2004, leaving the main building unusable.

However, other areas of the site were undamaged and continued to host a variety of community groups.

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“We’re looking forward to it getting back to what it was before the fire, back in 2004, when we had up to 40 different community groups using the site for their meetings and for their groups,” said Mr Reynolds.

The works are being funded through grants from the Federal and NSW governments.

The Land Reserve Manager group was looking to make the Old Bega Hospital site a strong venue the community could use, Mr Reynolds said.

Work recently began on repairing the nurses’ quarters veranda with funding through a different grant, from the Crown Reserves Improvement Fund.

Ms Jones said the restoration works marked an opportunity for the Bega Valley.

“Once the hospital is in a restored state, it will be a true heritage asset to the area,” she said.

She thanked everyone involved for their efforts over the years, from volunteers to the Bega Valley Shire Council, local businesses and politicians.

“We’ve worked very well together,” she said of the volunteers.

“We haven’t always agreed and we have had what I think are termed robust discussions, but we all had the same goal that the building should be restored, and we’ve made compromises on that basis.

“It’s a project that’s something to be very proud of.”

The facility served as Bega’s main hospital from 1888 to 1956.

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