The new Maitland hospital will not operate under a public-private partnership if it cannot meet the city’s health needs over the next 30 years.
In a shock twist seven months after the state government announced the $400 million facility would likely run under that model, the new Health Minister Brad Hazzard has put all options back on the table.
He told Fairfax Media current plans for the Metford Road hospital would not cater for the city’s growing population and the project needed more money.
“I am not locked in on any model at all as the new health minister, whatever we can do to get the best outcome for the community will be what happens,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Whatever model we use has to one that builds for the future, not just the next three or four years.
“This area is growing massively and will grow massively.
“We’ve got to be building extra operating theatres, extra wards, extra facilities more broadly for the range of modern equipment that we have.
“All that has to be factored in.”
Mr Hazzard revealed former Health Minister Jillian Skinner had proposed a public-private partnership because of budget constraints.
“She’d allocated $200 million [$400 million] – that could build a hospital but not the sort of hospital we want here for a growing population,” he said.
“We need a lot more money and if there are innovative ways to do that then it’s worth looking at.
“Probably everything has to be back on the table, but the problem is I don’t want to see a delay in getting a model moving forward.”
Mr Hazzard said he wanted the community and hospital staff to help choose the model and he was prepared to lobby NSW Treasury for more money up front.
“I’m up for it if that’s what we all decide as a community and as the minister that we need to do,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The question is are we going to go more slowly, which I don’t want to do, or are we going to find either a different model to build it, which could involve the private sector, for example, in building the hospital but not actually running the hospital.
“Or it could be the private sector actually taking over building the hospital and then bringing the staff in or employing the staff that are currently in the hospital system and more staff obviously but under their umbrella, the private umbrella.
“If none of that works when we’ve had a look at it, if nothing is really good for the local community, i’m not ideologically locked into anything.”
Mr Hazzard said he was aware of different employment conditions under the public and private systems, and concerns about hospital staff losing their entitlements when transferring.
He said he would look into it.
No matter what model is chosen, patients won’t set foot in the new facility for another five years.
Mr Hazzard said it usually took two to three years to plan a hospital and start construction, and another one-and-a-half to two years to complete the build.
Ms Skinner and former Maitland MP Robyn Parker announced $20 million to fast-track the planning of the hospital in 2013. The plans were unveiled in December 2015 and construction was supposed to begin by March 2019.
“I want to get it done as soon as possible … One way or another we are having a new hospital,” Mr Hazzard said.
“It’s about five years away even if we were to push hard now, and I am pushing hard, so i’ll see what I can do.”