Griffith resident Sherene Blumer said she won’t give up her fight to save the old Nurses Quarters, despite the NSW Government finally providing her with reasons for its decision to demolish the building.
The property, currently unused, is to be knocked down to make way for a re-development of Griffith Base Hospital.
After two months of seeking answers on why this being done, Ms Blumer received a letter this week from a senior bureaucrat at Health Infrastructure – the NSW Government department overseeing the redevelopment.
“The building was constructed in 1948… [when] nurses were all single women and were required to retire on marriage,” the letter states.
The letter argues the property facilities – small single single rooms, communal dining rooms and shared bathrooms – do not meet present day expectations.
The building was constructed in 1948… [when] nurses were all single women and were required to retire on marriageNSW Government
NSW Infrastructure added that asbestos has been detected in the property.
As the necessary funding to cover the cost of refurbishing and repurposing the building may not be available, the building could present safety hazards.
NSW Infrastructure also states that these day; locum doctors, nurses and other health staff are accommodated in rental properties near the hospital.
Ms Blumer, a qualified building designer, is not convinced by these reasons.
“With proper funding, this building could be brought up to current day standards. This cost will be much less than building something new”.
Ms Blumer also questioned the wisdom of the hospital using the private rental market to accommodate locum staff.
“Often, doctors only use them for a few months of the year. The rest of the time the houses are vacant, while others can’t find anywhere to rent in Griffith”.
Ms Blumer has organised a petition on change.org to save the building, which has so far garnered more than 800 signatures. Some 72 per cent of respondents to a poll by The Area News say they support Ms Blumer’s campaign.
But some on social media have been critical of Ms Blumer, arguing Griffith would be better off with a brand new building.
“Can we really trust that we’ll get a new building?” Ms Blumer asked.
“We haven’t got a major new [government-funded] building since Wade High was built more than 40 years ago”.
Ms Blumer said she appealed to Griffith City Council to support her cause, and felt she was rejected.
Council said in a statement “it can only be guided by asset assessment reports and the master-plan of the forthcoming developments of Griffith Base Hospital as provided by MLHD.
“The mayor and general manager remain in communication with MLHD and will request further detail as to the current condition of the Nurses Quarters and costing options, including the management of removal of any detected asbestos, for consideration of the rehabilitation of the Nurses Quarters”.
Ms Blumer has sought permission to inspect the building with her husband Grant, a building consultant. As yet, permission has not been granted.
The couple will now meet with senior NSW government bureaucrats in early March to continue to plead their case.
The Area News questions to MLHD
1. Who made the decision to demolish the existing Nurses Building Quarters at Griffith Base Hospital?
2. What is the reason/rationale behind the decision?
3. Why is it not possible to adapt the building to provide accommodation for either staff or families of patients, after the scheduled stripping of hazardous material takes place?
4. The MLHD Griffith Health Plan Summary refers to "staff accommodation" and "accommodation options" for remote and isolated patients. Where will this accommodation be built?
Full MLHD response
Enabling works planned by Health Infrastructure and Murrumbidgee Local Health District for the $35 million Griffith Base Hospital Redevelopment include the demolition of unused and redundant buildings to prepare the site for future stages.
This includes the proposed demolition of the disused nurses’ accommodation building, which has been vacant for 10 years, as it is beyond its useful life and does not provide any clinical or support functions for the hospital. Its demolition will free up space on the campus for Stage 1 works.
It is not viable to refurbish the building as its structure and layout does not lend itself to be easily adapted for other uses or meet contemporary accommodation and building standards.
The cost of demolition is significantly lower than refurbishing and repurposing the building for clinical or non-clinical services.
The redevelopment aims to provide, where possible, new facilities that are efficiently planned with optimum functional relationships and minimal travel distances.
The nurses’ accommodation is a free-standing building that cannot be effectively integrated into a new development.
Accommodation for staff and patients will continue to be considered as part of the ongoing master planning process.