Cessnock Hospital has been allocated $111.5 million for redevelopment as part of the NSW Government's half-a-billion-dollar investment into regional and rural health infrastructure.
The funding was revealed on Saturday in a joint announcement by Premier Dominic Perrottet, Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Specific details of the redevelopment are not yet available, but a Health Infrastructure spokesperson said a review of clinical services needs and planning will be carried out by the Local Health District to inform the redevelopment, and the community will be consulted as the project progresses.
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Cessnock MP Clayton Barr was surprised, but thrilled, by the announcement.
He said he was aware some significant funding was on the cards for Cessnock Hospital, but he never imagined it would be that much money.
"This is fantastic news for the rapidly growing community of Cessnock. An investment of this size, into our local hospital, comes once in a lifetime," he said.
"I have been lobbying on behalf of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri hospitals for 10 years, it's so great to see that the message has now been heard loud and clear.
"Our two local hospitals at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri are more than 100 years old. The time for major renovations and improvements is long overdue, previously ignored by governments of all political persuasions."
Mr Barr said it was an exciting announcement for the community, and that the funding would provide the opportunity to "think big" about the hospital's future.
"Some of those old asbestos filled buildings are ready for the wrecking ball so let's bring it in and start anew on a blank canvas," he said.
"We have to bring our tired old hospital into the 21st century.
"I will be working closely with the Health Minister and Hunter New England Health as we paint this exciting new chapter in our community."
The investment comes as hearings for the state parliamentary inquiry into health services in regional, rural and remote NSW continue to highlight serious problems with access to healthcare in these areas.
"(The inquiry) is showing that things are bad in the regions, with people choosing to not get the health care that they need because it is too far away and too hard," Mr Barr said.
"This investment won't fix all of our health challenges, but it's a terrific place to start."
Saturday's funding announcement was made at Wyong Hospital, which will receive $6.4 million to expand its Cancer Day Unit to deliver specialist cancer ambulatory treatment services (to complement the hospital's recently opened $200 million expansion).
Other projects include $60 million towards the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital (bringing the total investment to $260 million); $25 million for Finley Hospital in the NSW Riverina; $6 million for biomedical equipment upgrades across the Western NSW Local Health District and $1 million for planning for a Wagga Wagga Health and Knowledge precinct.
The Premier, Deputy Premier and Health Minister said the additional funding will help deliver more health services and infrastructure needed in the bush.
"We have delivered more than 110 health projects in regional NSW since 2011 with another 70 currently underway and we are continuing to get the job done," Mr Perrottet said.
"Our focus has always been ensuring rural communities get their share of health upgrades so staff and communities have access to enhanced services on their doorstep."
Mr Toole said the funding is on top of the $900 million rural infrastructure spend in 2021-22.
"We're rolling out record investment for new and upgraded regional and rural health facilities to build on our vision to make regional communities the best place to live," he said.
"We are also backing in this infrastructure spend with new initiatives that help ensure we have the workforce needed in the regions to deliver the quality of care our communities deserve."
Mr Hazzard said the NSW Government is making sure the millions of patients who access the health system each year have the health facilities that match their needs.
"We are building better health services across the state and we know we need to get the right health infrastructure in place so our medical professionals can provide the care and support people in the regions need," Mr Hazzard said.
Cessnock City Council general manager Lotta Jackson was delighted with the announcement, having recently written to Mr Perrottet, Mr Hazzard and Hunter New England Health CEO Michael DiRienzo to request a review and upgrade of the hospital (following a notice of motion at council's October meeting).
"It has taken lobbying by many in our community to get this result, and the outcome is just fantastic. It is wonderful news for both Cessnock Hospital staff, our whole community," she said.