Now is your chance to get answers about the proposed Lower Hunter hospital | Editorial

It’s time to get answers to long-standing questions about the proposed Lower Hunter hospital.

INPUT: NSW Health Infrastructure senior project director Troy Harvey, left, with Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo, at the existing Maitland Hospital site in 2016. Mr DiRienzo will attend the forum on Monday. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

INPUT: NSW Health Infrastructure senior project director Troy Harvey, left, with Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo, at the existing Maitland Hospital site in 2016. Mr DiRienzo will attend the forum on Monday. Picture: Michael Hartshorn

The Maitland Mercury is hosting a public forum at East Maitland Bowling Club from 6.30pm on Monday featuring a range of guests – from politicians and union representatives to a high ranking health administrator and an academic – who will answer questions from the community.

When the health facility was first announced in 2013, there was much excitement about the boost a state-of-the-art hospital would give to healthcare in the Lower Hunter. But four years on, the state government has confirmed few details.

A lack of ironclad information and resulting speculation and criticism has led to a jarring level of noise – but the community remains largely in the dark with regard to what the new hospital will look like.

This is a worry – we are talking about arguably the most important piece of infrastructure promised to this region in recent history.

The forum comes after new Health Minister Brad Hazzard said publicly in March that all options for the hospital were back on the table. A re-think on the proposed public-private partnership funding model is good news – we need a fully public hospital.

But Mr Hazzard has also thrown a spanner in the works by failing to rule out the former Hydro Aluminium site at Kurri Kurri as a possible location for the facility.

This was resolved years ago. If the debate reignites, it could become a distraction from the pressing questions that need answers.

The Mercury has previously made its position clear – the Lower Hunter hospital should be a publicly funded and publicly run facility that is built at the Metford site that the government settled on in 2013.

Rather than debating where the hospital should be built, we should be pushing the government for details on services that will be available, bed numbers, when construction will begin and when the first patients will pass through the doors.

Whatever your opinion, now is the chance to have your voice heard. 

If you care about the future of healthcare in the Lower Hunter, come along to the public forum on Monday. If you would like to submit a question, which will possibly be used at the forum, visit The Mercury’s website and fill out the form.

  • Pictured: Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo will attend the forum.