By CAITLIN CROWLEY
WORK on Toowoomba’s new $1.3 billion public hospital could start in just six months after this week’s historic state budget announcement, with $20 million next financial year to begin initial works at the Baillie Henderson Hospital site.
Darling Downs Health Board Chair Mike Horan said it was an exciting time for the Darling Downs with the project to make Toowoomba a “capital city of health.”
“Toowoomba is heading towards being one of the greatest health centres of any regional city in Australia and it’s very exciting for the future,” Horan said.
The five year project will see a new hospital built at the Baillie Henderson campus and the existing Toowoomba Hospital site converted into a major health centre for services such as day surgery, dental, specialist outpatients, education and training.
It’s a significant change from initial plans to relocate the entire hospital precinct out of Toowoomba’s CBD, potentially freeing up that land for a convention centre or stadium.
“It’s been part of our negotiations over the last 12 months and really what we’ve got is the best of two worlds,” Mike Horan said.
“We’ve got a CBD health centre in 5 or 6 years time and on the Baillie Henderson site we’ll have a world class hospital.”
The new facility will offer relief for staff who’ve been battling overcrowding at the city’s existing hospital for years.
“They’ve worked under very difficult conditions, at times up to 100 per cent capacity and for our staff at the Toowoomba Hospital, this is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Horan said.
Hospital Chief Executive Annette Scott said the project will make Toowoomba a very attractive area for clinicians to work in.
“This announcement is a tonic for our staff and offers hope and opportunity for those people who are keen to potentially look at the Darling Downs as an area to move,” she said.
Toowoomba North MP Trevor Watts told the Caller he was disappointed the state government could find $200 million for the Wellcamp quarantine facility but just $20 million for the new hospital in the coming financial year.
“$20 million is really not going to get much of the hospital work done in the next 12 months and there are people ramped up at our hospital this week, who deserve better services than that,” Watts said.
“20 million is a start – I look forward to more money being drawn down because we need this hospital as soon as possible.”
However Annette Scott said she felt comfortable with the $20 million figure for the first year of the project.
‘We have collaborated over what we felt was a reasonable figure that we would be able to utilise in the next 12 months to get that early works underway,” Scott said.
The project will create an additional 118 public hospital beds locally, which Scott assured would meet the needs of Toowoomba’s growing population.
“We also have to factor in other models of care that emerge over the next five years,” Scott said, highlighting recent advances in telehealth and the ability to provide hospital care to patients in their own home.
WATCH: The site for the new Toowoomba Hospital at the Baillie Henderson Hospital campus.