23 February 2022
BLUE MOUNTAINS ELECTORATE HOSPITALS
Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (18:16): It has been four long years and the Blue Mountains community is still waiting for the New South Wales Government to make good on its promise to begin the new hospital to replace the dilapidated Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital. While we wait, hardworking staff struggle to work with outdated equipment crammed into a haphazard collection of worn‑out buildings, while many residents are forced to travel up to two hours out of the area to access the medical care they need.
The Blue Mountains has a growing population of more than 80,000 people. It is also an ageing population, significantly older than that of Greater Sydney and therefore requiring access to a wide range of health services in the local area, yet 73 per cent of Blue Mountains residents travel out of the area in order to access the services they need. Further, a staggering 90 per cent of residents requiring surgery currently travel out of the area for their procedures, and 45 per cent of Blue Mountains babies are born at Nepean Hospital. Those damning statistics, and multiple submissions to the upper House regional health inquiry, sound the alarm that our hospital is no longer fit for purpose.
Despite the Government claiming a new hospital was a priority during the last election campaign, we have heard nothing about it from them for years—no funding, no progress and no plans. In fact, Blue Mountains is one of the few hospitals that has not received major reinvestment and infrastructure capital works upgrades in recent years. Almost 100 years old and with leaky roofs and ageing equipment, Katoomba hospital continues to be neglected by the Government. The inadequacies include the lack of an MRI—meaning there is no capacity for MRIs between Bathurst and Penrith—inadequate orthopaedic and rehabilitation facilities, no critical care unit, no intensive care unit, no resources for 24/7 emergency surgery, and inadequate mental health and palliative care facilities. The hospital is also unable to provide cancer services, cardiology, respiratory care or neurology—and the list goes on.
A constituent recently shared with me his shock at the substandard facilities his frail, dying 80‑year‑old mother endured when placed in one of only two palliative care rooms. He was forced to repair a broken door latch so that an oxygen tank that was propping the door open could be taken away so as not to be a hazard to his mother. Staff thanked him for the basic maintenance they did not have the time or resources to attend to. Hospital visitors should not have to repair broken facilities, and community groups such as the hospital auxiliary and the Leura Gardens Festival should not have to fundraise to pay for essential equipment. But Katoomba hospital could not function without those fundraising efforts, which have raised more than $3 million for new equipment and improved facilities such as an ultrasound machine, a lung function box and the establishment of a five‑room outpatient clinic. Those projects should have been funded by the Government; the fact they were not is a damning indictment.
This week I launched an ePetition and I will work in collaboration with others as part of a new community alliance to lobby the State and Federal governments for a new, modern hospital for the Blue Mountains. There is overwhelming community support, and the case is irrefutable. Our community is geographically dispersed and not easily able to access the major hospitals in Sydney. We host millions of tourists every year, who also need to use the hospital at times. We suffer regular inclement weather that causes significant accidents on the Great Western Highway and sometimes forces it to close completely. Our current hospital is so dilapidated that parts of it are uninhabitable. Annual maintenance and repair costs are excessive, yet still fail to bring the hospital to an acceptable standard. There is an urgent need to pursue what can be done immediately to improve service delivery within the constraints of the current building and while construction is underway. The hospital should be restored to its previous peer group status as a universal facility.
My Federal counterpart, Susan Templeman, and I, along with Blue Mountains City Council and many community leaders, health professionals, businesses and citizens are committed to doing whatever we can to expedite the new hospital's construction. It is an issue of public health and safety. We seek the commitment of the Premier and the Minister for Health to fund construction of a new, purpose-built, modern public hospital for the Blue Mountains, with a full range of clinical services. The identification of a suitable site and a clear plan, with allocated funding and time frames for completion, must be released for community consultation as soon as possible. The Government has had more than 10 years to act on the issue, and I will hold members opposite to account until it is done. I yet again call on the Government to deliver on its promise; its failure to do so is putting the long-term health of Blue Mountains residents and healthcare workers at risk.