The Save the Nurses Quarters group is bitterly disappointed at the announcement that the Demolition of the Nurses Quarters located within the Griffith Base Hospital precinct is to proceed.
Members of our group have fought for nearly 11 months for answers to questions about the potential of the Nurses Quarters to service the community and hospital, ever since the premier first announced the $35 million in preliminary funding in July 2017.
The Nurses Quarters demolition came to our attention when the Murrumbidgee Local Health District hospital update flyer was released on December 21, no public consultation on that decision, nor any reasoning behind that outcome was provided.
Since that announcement we have asked, politely, for the opportunity to hold a public meeting on the outcome, for the following questions to be addressed;
• Who made the decision to demolish the building?
• On what grounds or evidences was that decision reached?
• Why were the public excluded from that process?
• Why has our petition which carries the signatures of over 1200 residents not been responded to?
For the past six months we have not had any of these questions answered, instead we have met with a conspiracy of silence, inaction and obstruction as we have attempted to discover the truth.
In response to our questions, the Minister for Health, Hon Brad Hazzard, instead gave our group 3 weeks to develop an alternate proposal for the use of the building, the criteria we were required to meet were subsequently provided through an email from Austin Evans, Member for Murray on the 21st May.
“Proposals for alternative uses must adhere to the following criteria:
• Alternative uses must be for a health related function. Frontline clinical services are not considered a suitable use given the distance of the building from other hospital facilities.
• The proposal must consider the needs of the Clinical Services Plan and proposed Master Plan for the site.
• The proposals should provide a funding source other than NSW Health and provide an estimate of the capital cost.
• Ongoing facility management and operational considerations/requirements should be clearly articulated and a funding source identified to meet these ongoing operational costs.
• Proposals must consider both architectural outcomes and Building Code of Australia (BCA) compliance.
“We presented two proposals to NSW Healthy Infrastructure, both addressing needs expressed within the current Local Health Services Plan refresh update 2017, however these were rejected because we had not been able to identify where the $4.5 million required to repurpose the building would come from, remembering we only had 3 weeks to develop the proposal, and had identified funding through a commercial loan and repayment schedule based on the limited detail we were able to ascertain from NSW Health Infrastructure.
We firmly believe that given the opportunity to develop our model further and given an appropriate time frame we could identify local funding sources which would more than meet the requirements expected.
Sherene Blumer, Save the Nurses Quarters group.
Read the letter in full online.
Our costs on refurbishment were also questioned as being unrealistic, even though these were based on the average building costs incurred per square metre in our area, rather than the exorbitant costs that public agencies are prepared to pay at taxpayer expense, given that Health Infrastructure had costed the refurbishment at $8.5 million.
At no time have we been playing on a level playing field, every question we have proposed has been met with a negative and obstructionist response or attitude, the goal posts were constantly shifting.
The community has never had a real opportunity to comment on the Nursing Quarters, nor even the Hospital Master plan, considering the information presented at the Pop up Display didn’t provide the community with a clear picture of what was happening and even the proposed time frames, not even the graphic displays related to what is actually proposed.
We have no firm commitment of future funding, only the promises of a politician, and we are not even sure if this is a core or non-core promise, but we do know that there is no significant ongoing funding currently identified in the current Health redevelopment program 2021 - 2028.
Whatever we see in funding commitments will only ever be small amounts to continue the charade.
Our group has never opposed the Redevelopment and upgrade of Griffith Base Hospital, however we have seen the potential of the current Nurses Quarters, the most significant building on that site, (in fact in our city) to be part of the plan to deliver services into the future.
To provide short stay accommodation for families, or visiting specialists, or to provide outpatient services.
We are saddened that this vision for repurpose was so bitterly opposed by our Mayor and that it was not fully explored by Health Infrastructure, who we remind everyone are not based in Griffith or even in the region, but are city based and have no connection with our community yet believe that they are making the best decisions for us.
The only reasoning that they can give for the decision to proceed with demolition is because of the high cost of maintaining the building into the future, which is odd, considering that they removed the building from the maintenance schedule over 17 years ago, and while it may look a little shabby, it’s still retained its structural integrity and with a little TLC would scrub up pretty well.
The cost to remove the building would be better spent on the current hospital which is in dire need of maintenance.
Health Infrastructure admitted that there are limited funds to maintain the existing buildings, so shouldn’t that be the priority rather than tearing down an asset that doesn’t impact of the hospital rebuild program for at least 20 years, and release those funds to maintain the current hospital, because it’s going to take at least 20 years before we see the “new Hospital” emerge from within the old.
The Nurses Quarters is a building that has cultural and historical relevance, and is one of the very few buildings our community has which links us to those early years of this town’s history.
It’s ironic that the current contractor who is removing the asbestos, has a history of restoring historic heritage buildings in his own community and yet here he will be tearing down one of our communities last buildings of historical significance.
Finally we reject the claims by the Mayor that our actions to save the building, placed future hospital funding in jeopardy, when according to the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro that was not the case at all. Mayor Dal Broi does not speak on behalf of everyone in this community, and he will be held to account on this matter.
Sherene Blumer, Save the Nurses Quarters group.