New Byron hospital a step closer
It’s been on the drawing board for more than 10 years, but now plans for a new 54-bed centralised hospital for the Byron Shire could be a step closer.
With a six-hectare site at Ewingsdale already purchased for the hospital, an ambulance station and associated health-related services, the Byron Shire Health Services Community Action Group is now seeking funds from the Federal Government to fast-track the project.
The group is hoping that some of the $1.8 billion the Federal Government has promised for capital projects across the country, especially in rural areas, will be available to complete the first step of the hospital plan, which includes a site assessment.
“The announcement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, of the $1.8 billion is our best chance to get a new hospital for the Byron Shire,” group spokesperson Tony McCabe said.
“It’s been a long, hard battle that actually started 30 years ago, and we now need to push this project along so we can see it come to fruition.
“The land at Ewingsdale still needs to be rezoned, but Byron Shire Council has now asked the Department of Health to lodge a rezoning application.
“We are very hopeful that the rezoning application will be lodged soon and we can then lobby for funding from the capital works program.”
In 2002, after an extremely long and detailed period of consultation across the shire, it was unanimously agreed to build one hospital on a green-field site to replace both the Byron Bay and Mullumbimby hospitals.
The site has been approved by the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) and a services plan has been completed.
The group is now seeking an urgent meeting with the Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot, the Member for Ballina, Don Page, and Chris Crawford and Vahid Sabiri from the North Coast Area Health.
“We are asking for their assistance to help make our dream of a new hospital a reality,” Mr McCabe said.
“We have been a very patient and supportive community and have been assured there is a desire to complete this project and an acknowledged need for these health services in a growing community and popular tourist area.
“The group is seeking as a matter of urgency the accessing of funds by application for the purpose of completing this long-awaited and long-overdue project.
“We have the support of the entire community, the local medical staff council and Mr Page.
“There is a gate at the entrance to the hospital land at Ewingsdale. We just need someone to open that gate.”
Group member Dr Greg Gover said a new centralised hospital for the shire would be a real asset.
He said it would consolidate health services and provide for the shire’s future needs.
“The shire is growing rapidly and we need to address its health needs,” Dr Gover said.
“Byron Shire has always been the poor cousin on the North Coast when it comes to providing health services, and compared to large metropolitan hospitals, unfortunately we are way down the list.
“But we are not going to give up and we will be pushing harder than ever to get our new hospital up and running.”