Maitland Hospital won’t close until the new Lower Hunter hospital is up and running.
And construction work on the Metford facility will begin by the end of 2018.
These were among the details Hunter New England Local Health District chief executive Michael Di Rienzo confirmed at a public forum in East Maitland on Monday night, which attracted more than 200 people.
“The current Maitland Hospital will close,” he said.
“It is not possible to run two hospitals in the Lower Hunter sector and, to be honest, there’s no need for two hospitals. I think sometimes we forget that we need budget and resources to run the hospitals.”
Mr Di Rienzo also said the new facility would be two-to-three times the size of Maitland Hospital, but bed numbers were not yet known.
Representatives from the Health Services Union, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation joined Mr Di Rienzo for the forum, along with Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison and a senior lecturer from Macquarie University.
The panel took questions regarding when and where the hospital would be built, who would fund and run the facility and what impact these decisions could have on the community.
Speculation about a possible change in location came after new Health Minister Brad Hazzard said in March that all options were back on the table. It reignited calls from part of the Hunter community the the facility should be built at Kurri Kurri.
But Mr Di Rienzo poured cold water on a possible change from the Metford location, which was chosen in 2013. He said, of the 35 locations considered, Metford was “the best site by far”.
Ms Aitchison said the 40 hectare site was a suitable size.
“It’s also on the rail line and we know that public transport is a major determinant of health,” she said.
“The [Hunter] Expressway is great if you’ve got a car and can drive but if you can’t – if you’re doing chemo [therapy] or radio [therapy] or if you have had a stroke or a significant disability – you may not be able to drive to that hospital.”