Maitland’s new $470 million dollar hospital at Metford is on track to open in January 2022, with planning for the transfer of patients and staff well underway.
The new Lower Hunter Valley hospital, which is nearing completion, is almost double the size of the existing facility, with 150 more beds, bringing the total to about 340.
For the first time, chemotherapy, emergency short stay and cardiac catheterisation will be available in Maitland and health authorities insist there is room for future expansion.
Hunter New England Heath’s Ramsey Awad said it would be one of the biggest hospital moves ever undertaken by NSW Health.
“There’s a lot of complexity in moving services and patients across,” he said.
“There’ll be a combination of ambulances and patient transport vehicles and we will prioritise our sickest patients.
“That will be supported by a lot of removalists moving the more mundane items like some furniture and medical equipment.
“Ideally, before Christmas, we want the entire hospital set up and ready to go, so once we return back from the Christmas break we can very smoothly make that transfer.”
Dr Awad said the current hospital, which was built in 1849, had become well past its used-by date.
“Staff have been working out of facilities which are ancient,” he said
“I think the the biggest change for them will be getting used to modern, contemporary facilities where everything works, we have lots of gas points and doors that don’t fall off hinges anymore.”
Will there be enough staff?
Nurses have raised concerns over whether all 150 new beds will be able to open at the new site without more staff.
Kathleen Chapman is the Maitland branch secretary of the Nurses and Midwives Association and says her members are still waiting for details on staffing levels.
“Some of the staff are excited for a nice, new environment,” she said.
“But many of our members are still really concerned that the services we take over won’t match what the population needs.
“So we feel like maybe it’s putting makeup over blemishes — it’ll look good, but we’re taking across all the [under-staffing] issues we’ve got here.”
Adapting to COVID
NSW Health ensured all current construction projects were redesigned to cater for COVID requirements.
“Those changes include creating rooms like the resuscitation bay that can be isolated both physically and from a ventilation perspective,” Dr Awad said.
“So we have negative flow, which essentially means that air is being sucked out of that room instead of being pushed into the rest of the emergency department.”
Once the new hospital opens, the existing hospital will be decommissioned and closed.
MP for Maitland Jenny Aitchison is worried there has been no announcement from the NSW government on what will happen with the building.
“I think there needs to be some serious consultation on this issue,” she said.
“The problem for me is the government’s had well over 10 years since they made the announcement they were going to build this hospital.
“They’re still standing around at the last minute and they won’t tell the community what they want to do with it.
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“It would be a real sadness for our community if it just gets sold to the highest bidder because the government couldn’t engage the community in what would be the best use of it.”