Minister tight-lipped on hospital
FIVE months after being swept to power on a wave of voter anger, the Coalition Government is yet to hand over millions of dollars promised for planning work at Lismore Base Hospital and the planned Central Byron Shire Hospital.
And less than three weeks out from the Coalition’s first budget, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner was in no hurry to say when the money would be available.
During the election campaign, Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell committed $7.5 million to updating plans for Lismore’s Stage Three upgrade and another million to planning out the long-awaited Central Byron Shire Hospital at Ewingsdale.
The commitment reflects only a small fraction of the likely cost of the Base Hospital upgrade, but is essential if the redevelopment is to account for changes in the region’s population, in technology, and in the growth of medical education in Lismore.
Asked if the Coalition would hand over the promised funds in the budget, Mrs Skinner responded: “You’ll have to wait until the September budget. I’m threatened with death by the treasurer if I spill the beans about the budget so I can’t comment on that. It’s the 6th of September, not far away.”
Asked if the Government intended to start work on the Stage Three upgrade before the next State election, which is due in 2015, Mrs Skinner was even more vague, committing only to starting the planning work.
“The answer will be visible in the budget papers,” she said.
“That (planning) money is allocated for the first term, so the work from that will certainly be in its first term.”
The Stage Three upgrade is urgently needed to fix Lismore’s out-dated and overloaded emergency department, along with the operating theatres and its wards.