Griffith’s chronic accommodation shortage can make it near impossible for visitors and newcomers to find a place to sleep in this town.
So why are we demolishing a solid brick building that provided nurses’ housing for decades?
That’s the question Sherene Blumer has been asking politicians and senior bureaucrats for months. She’s still waiting for a response.
The now unused Nurses Quarters building next to Griffith Base Hospital is scheduled for demolition, as part of the redevelopment of a promised new hospital.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) told The Area News in a statement, “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 building will therefore be stripped of hazardous material, such as asbestos, before demolition.
Ms Blumer, a qualified building designer, is starting a campaign to stop this from happening.
“I take issue with the huge taxpayer waste of demolishing such a substantial building and not considering viable alternatives to revitalise and adapt it”.
Ms Blumer said the building could be re-adapted to accommodate families of patients who travel to Griffith from remote locations, and can’t afford to stay in hotels – which are usually full anyway.
She said it could also provide accommodation for new hospital staff, many of whom struggle to find a place to live in a town where the rental vacancy rate is just one per cent.
MLHD, however, said, “[the building] 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 [in constructing a new hospital].”
“The cost of demolition is significantly lower than refurbishing and repurposing the building for clinical or non-clinical services”.
“The nurses’ accommodation is a free-standing building that cannot be effectively integrated into a new development”
Ms Blumer disagrees.
“There’s no need for it to be integrated, it’s in a good location”.
“I reckon this building would be worth $3 or $4 million… it would be too expensive to build something like that now”.
“We’re much better off spending money to fix it up, rather than knocking it down and trying to do something else”.
Ms Blumer’s husband Grant, a building consultant, said “it’s a good quality brick building… they don’t build housing of that quality anymore”.
Ms Blumer said we should also value the historical significance of the building, in a town that has “already lost so much of its past architectural heritage in the name of progress”.
“They’re making these decisions from Sydney, they don’t know the impact they have here”.
Ms Blumer has written to a number of politicians and senior bureaucrats seeking a comprehensive response to how, why and by whom this decision was made. She still awaits a response.
MLHD’s plans for a new hospital make reference to providing “accommodation options” for staff and patient families, but as yet there are no details on how, or where.
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.