Raising the BARR – Week ending 14/6/2024

Raising the Barr


We all know that the cost of everything is going up. In particular the cost of building materials and workers has really gone up. If you are not sure about this then ask anyone that is building a house or doing an extension or trying to build a path or a bridge or a road.

The same is true for building hospitals. In fact, in the past 2-3 years alone, the cost of building facilities, like hospitals, has risen by as much as 30-40%.

The announcement in 2021 that $111.48M would be committed for a rebuild of Cessnock Hospital was welcome news. In 2023 we got our first look at just what the new build might look like. But in 2024 when we got to have a look at a more up-to-date plan of the Cessnock Hospital rebuild, most of us noticed a distinct shrink in the footprint. The rise in construction costs was cutting about 30% of the new hospital build. Ouch!

Over the past 6 months I have been working feverishly on chasing any extra dollars that could be found for the hospital rebuild. I have set up and attended multiple meetings with anyone and everyone that I thought might be able to make a difference. While there were glimmers of hope, there was nothing in writing or definite.

Well, in recent days I was ecstatic to find out that the Cessnock Hospital rebuild will receive an additional $26.5M to bring us back to a plan that more closely resembles the first option put to us. The NSW Minister for Health shared the news with me early one morning and I had to pinch myself to be sure that it wasn’t just a dream. Total funding is now $137M.

The truth is that the NSW Budget is in terrible condition as a result of the former Government racking up so much debt and putting everything on the credit card. Finding an extra few dollars here or there for projects that have already been announced is not a simple thing. We do have to take full responsibility for the condition of the state’s finances and what we will leave to our kids when its their turn to run the state.

Now I realise that there are plenty of people out there that wanted a much larger and more grand hospital rebuild. I would like that too. I also realise that there will be some people out there looking for expanded services and treatments to be available in the new hospital. And I would like that too.

But right now, what I can say to people with great certainty, is that the hospital rebuild being undertaken will have the potential for future expansion. In addition to that, this current NSW Government is undertaking a massive drive toward the training and recruitment of our health workforce, including increased pay and also partial funding to go toward study costs. Doing this work will take some years, but in the future, when the Cessnock Hospital expands, we must have the workers to do the work, otherwise the expansion will be an empty shell.